Richard Dawkins issues Statement of Intent to Fort Bragg

Richard Dawkins issues Statement of Intent to Fort Bragg March 17, 2011

I’ve been approached by a number of reporters asking a peculiar question. About half the time they only ask about our headliner, Richard Dawkins.

“Fort Bragg says that the people in your lineup didn’t issue a Statement of Intent to them, a letter saying that they were actually coming. Why not?”

Well, they never asked for one. In fact I had never even heard of one until a reporter asked me that question. And I had been assured that our submitted packet had all the pertinent information by early January. I remained in close / constant contact with my contacts at Fort Bragg, and still never received any request of this sort.

Likewise, a close inspection of the FOIA documents regarding the evangelical Christian membership drive known as Rock the Fort – the event that we were promised equal treatment for – shows that such a request was never made to them.

Anyways, I’m sick of answering the same question at length. So to dispel this once and for all, every single Rock Beyond Belief performer has now issued a Statement of Intent.

Have a look at a few.

Richard Dawkins

I wish to put clearly on record my strong intention to attend, and speak at, the Rock Beyond Belief festival at Fort Bragg, now sadly cancelled because of (blatantly discriminatory) lack of support from the officer commanding Fort Bragg. ‘Statement of intent’ is putting it mildly. I was hugely looking forward to it, and it was, indeed, my main reason for travelling all the way from England, at my own expense. I also announced my intention to accept no honorarium, so keen was I to support the festival. The suggestion that the festival could not have filled a large hall is absurd. Even when talking on my own, I regularly draw enthusiastic crowds by the thousands, especially in the so-called ‘bible belt’ where beleaguered non-believers flock to hear somebody articulate what they have long thought privately but never felt able to speak.

Professor Richard Dawkins FRS, DSc.,
University of Oxford

Baba Brinkman


Fort Bragg
Subject: Statement Of Intent

It has recently come to my attention that questions are being raised as to the seriousness of my compact with SGT Justin Griffith to perform at a concert event he was organizing at Fort Bragg for April 2nd called “Rock Beyond Belief”. Please allow me to clear up any confusion by saying that I did confirm this gig with SGT Griffith, in writing, and although my usual fee to perform is around $2,000 I had also agreed in writing to waive my honorarium for the event, because the cause (equal treatment of those with divergent religious beliefs, including atheists) is one I believe in strongly. My written confirmation was sent to SGT Griffith via email on February 6th, and on February 13th I wrote a blog announcing the event to my fans online, which you can read here: I also followed up with a newsletter that went out to my personal email list of more than 7,000 individuals, and I received many encouraging responses and expressions of interest from fans around the world. If you have any doubt about this I would be happy to show you the messages and/or send out a follow-up newsletter asking everyone on my mailing list to individually write to you via email in support of SGT Griffith and in protest of Fort Bragg’s discrimination against his event on religious grounds, in clear violation of the US constitution. I was very disappointed to hear that the event was cancelled, but under the circumstances I think SGT Griffith made the right choice. [*RBB’s note: we didn’t really have much choice, we couldn’t afford the hotel and meals after the last minute restrictions were imposed.*]

I should also add, in case anyone is foolish enough to quibble over the “official” status of email confirmation as a form of written compact or “Statement of Intent”, that I currently perform more than 100 gigs per year and the majority of those events are confirmed via email with no formal contract, and never once have I canceled a gig for anything other than grave illness. Once an event has been confirmed via email and announced online and one’s name has been added to the poster, it would be career suicide to treat such commitments frivolously. The music industry, like many other professions, is mostly governed by a code of honour enforced by peers with a strong interest in each others’ reputation for integrity, something that is worth more than a signed contract in many spheres. I am proud to say SGT Griffith took me at my (written) word that I would be there, just like he seems to have (mistakenly) taken the word of Fort Bragg’s administrators that he would receive “equal support” for his event.

At any rate, I sincerely hope SGT Griffith is able to resurrect Rock Beyond Belief at a future date, and please be assured that I will do everything in my power to attend and perform. As we say in the hip-hop world: “word is bond”.

Baba Brinkman
The Rap Guide to Evolution

Dale McGowan

Fort Bragg
Subject: Statement Of Intent

I understand there is some question at Fort Bragg about whether I intended to appear as a speaker at the Rock Beyond Belief event formerly scheduled for April 2. I had indeed planned on coming to speak about my charitable foundation and had waived any honorarium.

Since your recent press conference, members of the press are apparently asking to see “Statements of Intent” from speakers who were invited to RBB. SGT Griffith tells me he was unaware of any requests or requirements for such a document before, and we’ve been in constant touch since last fall.

I must say I’m a bit puzzled about the need for Statements of Intent. The FOIA documents about the evangelical Rock the Fort event make it clear that no such request was made of speakers for that concert. I’ll help dispel the misconception that I was not planning to come to the event by publicizing this on my blog and elsewhere.

Please consider this email my “Statement of Intent.” I still remain open for a possible autumn rescheduling of Rock Beyond Belief.

Thank you,

Dale McGowan
Executive Director, Foundation Beyond Belief

Spoonboy (David Combs)

To whom it may concern:

Please accept this email message as my Statement of Intent. I fully intended to appear at the Rock Beyond Belief festival.  I’d gone as far as producing two promo youtube videos which you can view here:

Justin never asked me to write a Statement of Intent, as it is my understanding he was never instructed to do so.  Had I been asked I would have gladly written.  We’d been corresponding on the subject for months.

After looking over the FOIA documents about Rock the Fort, it’s clear that the Evangelical Christians had no such requirement. I do intend to write about this on my band’s website and spread the word in other venues.

I hope this helps to clarify my intentions with April 2nd’s now defunct Rock Beyond Belief, and I still remain open for a possible autumn date.

David Combs
a.k.a. Spoonboy (singer songwriter)

Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard

To Whom It May Concern,

if there has been any doubt as to whether my band intended to appear at the Rock Beyond Belief festival, I must say that in my ten years of touring as a musician I’ve never heard of anything known as a “statement of intent” – I was asked if my band would play the festival and I told the organizers that we would.  Please consider this to be our “statement of intent,” and know that we did indeed intend to appear.  I hope this eliminates any confusions.

Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard

Justin Griffith’s note: Jeffrey is underplaying how much this experience really screwed him over. The entire band was scattered across the country, and they had to make flight arrangements ahead of time and book a supporting mini tour just to make this work. He’s out $400 in air fare alone, and left unbooked and without a place to stay on Saturday April 2nd, the linchpin of the mini-tour they put together just for us. Please go see the shows, and let Jeffrey Lewis and the Junk Yard (3 people total) stay at your house afterwards! They are cool like that. Very DIY.

Via (check there for updates)

Thurs March 31 – Greenville, NC – Tipsy (409 Evans St. Greenville, NC 27858) Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard play with PALEFACE and more! $10 advance, $12 day of. Doors: 8:00PM, Those Meddling Kids 9, Paleface 9:55, Mandolin Orange 10:50, Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard 11:45
Fri April 1 – Durham, NC – Duke Coffeehouse
Sat April 2 – ? (Can anyone help book a show in Virgina? Or DC? Or…? Please email )
Sun April 3 – ? (DC? or…?)
Mon April 4 – Baltimore, MD – Bell Foundry (1539 N. Calvert St.) with The Creepers (USA) and Deep Sea Cavalry!
Tues April 5 – ?
Wed April 6 – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY – Bard College
Thurs April 7 – Poughkeepsie, NY – Vassar College
Fri April 8 – Brooklyn, NYC – Silent Barn (915 Wyckoff Ave) – Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard, The Beets, El-G (from France), and more tba!
Sat April 9 & Sun April 10 – Jeffrey Lewis has a table for Fuff Comics at the MoCCA indie comix fest in NYC!


We had funding for the travel for all of our guests, in the form of a $10,000 pledge from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. However, this pledge was conditional on the event actually happening. Luckily, they were extremely understanding and still donated $1000 to clean up the messy fallout from having to cancel the event [due to the last minute crippling restrictions]. This certainly doesn’t even come close to really compensating Jeffrey, or the others that lent us their talent and schedule. Much of the true costs will never be recuperated.

So please, if you can – check out the names on the lineup. Buy their newest books. Download their new album off i-tunes. Or go see them live.

If you have 30 seconds, you can help Rock Beyond Belief out by signing this petition. It got a late start, well after we kicked off our ‘How you can help effort’ – so please sign it. It actually has been generating responses from politicians. Some have been quite positive, and others comically negative. Either way, we could use the help!

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  • Jesse

    Now that I consider it, a later date for Rock Beyond Belief would be a good idea. The discriminating, promise-breaking decision by the head officials of Fort Bragg may serve as a sort of Streisand Effect, making the possible attendance much, much higher. I, myself, wasn’t considering coming down to Fort Bragg for the event, but after what has happened, I am seriously considering coming now. Just keep trying and eventually RBB will happen, I think.

    Best of luck,
    Jesse Harden

  • Religionists just like to make things up as they go along, whatever is convenient to flesh out their view on life. To them, it’s only lying if something untrue is said to another believer. Similar to their sacred texts spun from whole cloth, their detachment from reality just doesn’t hold up to thoughtful examination in the hot, hard light of day. Whether from an evangelist, common worshiper, or commanding officer, a lie is a lie is a lie. In this case, it’s a domino effect breach of contract. Why do such people keep thinking they can just get away, scott free, with deception and subterfuge? Does this guy not understand he has no authority nor a get out of jail free card when dealing with civilians? I wonder how this incident is going to be recorded, after the looming DOD investigation, on Fort Bragg CO’s record.

  • Graham ASH-PORTER

    Speaking from the UK, I think the Military wants to encourage Christian Belief, so that their ‘Holy War’ against Islam to cover the real reason for Kuwait – Iraq – Afghanistan being Oil. Perfect deflection if we argue about Religion? Good luck keeping Religion and state separate…

  • @southpaugh:

    While I do agree with your sentiments, I am willing to bet the the “looming DoD investigation” would be little more than a dog and pony show for the media to say that they are doing something. The DoD will just want it gone and sweep the whole situation under the rug, throwing up band-aid measures in an effort to be rid of the whole ordeal. I was in the military and in many spots, it’s a “good ol’boys club,” so to speak. If something is going on that they don’t like, they have ways of making it disappear.

    But, I hope I am wrong; I am just analyzing things based upon past trends that I have seen both in and out of the military. Keep making noise so they can’t bury it.

    The actions taken by the individuals involved in cancelling the RBB event are shameful and dishonorable, not being worthy of the uniforms that they wear.

  • Dave

    I can forsee a day when Richard Dawkins will replace Christ as the most famous man to ever walk the Earth.

    “I reject ATHEISM because it has ‘NOTHING’ to offer”
    – Dave.

  • I didn’t know about this event until the news of its being canceled appeared on some blogs. But if this event is rescheduled on a weekend I will do everything possible to attend from California. Best of luck. Please click on my name to check out my blog too. thanks

  • Greg

    I’d love to sign the petition but as I’m not from the US it would be dishonest. I’m curious though, didn’t the officer that made this decision make a vow to protect the constitution? If so, he is a disgrace.

  • Good-luck. I support the idea that this event should be encouraged by Fort Bragg given their support of the previous religious event.

  • Kim

    My crush on Richard Dawkins just keeps increasing….. sigh. I don’t think he even knows I’m alive 😉 As an army spouse and former MWR employee, sadly none of this surprises me.

  • Jeff

    Unbelievable! There is nothing these arrogant religious swine will stoop to, it seems, and when they’ve got the US military in their pocket I fear for my country. Tell this traitorous commander who his real boss is and then courtmartial his ass!

  • Robster

    Wow, Take ’em to court for all they’ve got. How can the discrimination exposed in this instance be considered legal? Are these silly religious twits even dumber than we thought? Is believing in an invisible, magic sky fairy not dumb enough? They only want the soldiers to subscribe to the nonsense so they won’t be quite as scared on the battle field in the errr…knowlege that after they cease breathing they be off to the sky fairy land for ever and ever and ever etc. No thanks.

  • Gary

    I’m with you on this one. The fact is the first concert should never have been allowed. Ambiguous promises were made to justify a politicoreligeous agenda contrary to the spirit of law as it pertains to public (government) owned venues. This fiasco is at best a bad case of ass covering and at worst an abuse of authority and public trust. Now those responsible should either just follow through on their promise of equal support and put this whole mess behind them or resign.

  • HB

    To be fully honest, I am absolutely glad that the events that have transpired DID happen. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand why anyone SHOULD be glad about it. Ideally, this type of event wouldn’t even need to be a thought in any one’s mind, but because of the absurdity of superstition (namely, religion), it IS. And since it is, more people need to be aware the absurdity in all its ‘grandeur’. Whether this event ultimately does take place (and I think that it will), these recent events can only increase the exposure to the injustice taking place in today’s society by those that purport to be apart of an elite cult of moral (and ethic?) superiors. And for all those religious members that disagree with me on the topic of any particular brand of religiosity, let me then ask those of you who are SECULAR? I thank the Commander for his, clearly, imprudent display of ‘affection’ toward our first amendment and promises unkept.

    • HB

      “And for all those religious members that disagree with me on the topic of any particular brand of religiosity, let me then ask those of you who are SECULAR?”

      Should have been written/read:
      “And for all those religious members that disagree with me, regardless of the brand, let me then ask those who are SECULARISTS, do you disagree? If so, why?”

  • Dave

    The religous folks can be a bit extreme. But then again so can be the ‘New Atheists’. Attacking the hell out of Mother Teresa and Jesus could have something to do with the decision to cancel the event, don’t you think?

    Anyway, I couldn’t give a hoot about the event either way. Wouldn’t even know about it of it wasn’t for all the fuse the Atheists are making about it, as if they have a ‘God’ given right to speak wherever and whenever they like.

    Funny to see all the shorts in a knot though…

  • DaveV

    From one Dave to another, consider these points:
    While Under God was being added to the pledge and In God We Trust was made official on US currency and made the new country motto, both in the 1950’s, those of us that take our SECULAR Constitution seriously sat back and let it happen because it seemed harmless enough because it was in response to the “Godless Commies” during the cold war. But now we see that the religious right tries to use these recent insertions as “proof” that this is a Christian Nation and there’s too many people that think these insertions were from our founding fathers. It’s shocking that so many people do not know that E Pluribus Unum was the country motto. Doesn’t E Pluribus Unum or from many one, the country motto our founding fathers gave us, make more sense than a motto with God in it that divides the country that has a secular constitution? There is no question at all that our military has been infiltrated by the religious right and in particular the Evangelicals. Since when is a religion a requirement to be a soldier or since when does a religion make the difference of a person being an American or a patriot? How did a Christian flag folding ritual uphold our secular constitution and how did that apply to the military? How can the military endorse and sponsor a religious event open to the public for the purpose of finding converts? It is very clear that Fort Bragg endorsed a religion then sponsored it with the intent to get converts and they got into bed with the Billy Graham people and if I have the story right,20 local churches. I would have to say that I see that as government endorsing a specific religion, Christianity. Do you think the “spiritual fitness test” isn’t another tactic to force a religion onto soldiers? I and many others in this country have been awakened by the agenda to push a religion onto everyone and this is not the American way. The thought of a modern day crusade against Islam with “Christian Soldiers” is disgusting and where does it stop. Will we have “Christian Soldiers” at abortion clinics and gay rights parades to intimidate until the religious right makes them both a crime punishable by death? Our founding fathers knew vey well that religion and government have to be kept separate for the greater good of all. Was it an accident that the constitution does not mention a God or deity and that contrary to popular belief there was NO prayer at the constitutional convention? Was it an accident that the constitution says there shall be no religious test for office in this country? Many of our founding fathers were Deist and they were NOT Christians. Their belief in a God was best put in the Declaration of Independence that mentions “Natures God.” Notice that “Jesus” is absent from that document and what Evangelical claims to be Christian without being able to shout “Jesus” at evey opportunity? Nobody is stopping people from worshiping whatever deity they want to in this country so the problem lies in the fact that there is an agenda to make us all believe in and worhip the same deity and that is a theocracy, not a democracy. As for Mother Tersa, perhaps you should read up on her strict Catholic outlook and what took place in some of her clinics and the things she said to suffering people. To address “Jesus” all I can say is we all don’t believe in that deity and we don’t have too because you say so and pushing Jesus into every local or federal government meeting is offensive and unconstitutional because once “Jesus” is mentioned that’s an endorsement of Christianity. All religions have a God so even though no religion should be mixed with government a “God” doesn’t endorse a specific religion. Quite honestly I don’t see how there can ever be peace on earth as long as religions are the source of conflicts and the answer isn’t for the “Christians” converting the world to their way of thinking because they claim there’s is the only real and right religion!

  • Dave

    Believe it or not Dave V, I find it hard to argue with any of your points. I am not familiar with Mother Teresa’s conduct that you refer too but I have heard rumours. I will grant you that point. Re: Jesus, I believe he was a highly enlighened sole no different from the rest of us. Why would he teach us something that we could not possible achieve
    unless we were on equal footing with him to begin with?

    Another point, I am not Religious, nor am I affiliated with any Religion. However, I am not an Atheist as I do believe in God which is the energy force of all life and that adheres to Universal Laws such as Love and Harmony. I do not believe God is an entity sitting on a throne waiting to condeme people to heaven or Hell for all eternity.

    I do symphasize with your points and know they are legitimate concerns. The main point I was trying to make is that Millions of people see mother Teresa as a Saint and that bashing her like Dawkins and others do is going to get some Religious backs up against the wall. Some doors should expect to be closed as a result. It is a tightrope act that needs to be navigated carefully.

    Take care.

  • Frank Barthold

    I agree with Jessie Harden’s comment. However, more planning is needed and added support from legislators in the state. Knowing what has been revealed here makes me think that even if the event were scheduled, the command structure would make it difficult for soldiers to attend. I can imagine them running drills, field exercises, mandatory family readiness training activities . . . a slew of “be there or else” exercises to try best to limit attendance. And later they would make a big show of ridiculing the low turn-out. These guys are bastards and they justify killing innocent (heathen) civilians. Manipulating events is just part of the game for them. And yes, they would know exactly who attended. The counter event should be held on the same day as a religious promotional event but not on the base where MPs can be deployed.

    Well, as someone else once said, “here goes nothin’ . . .” and I’m getting involved in whatever way I can today:

    Good luck MRFF