The parachute team is *not* atheist and they are forced to perform

The parachute team is *not* atheist and they are forced to perform March 22, 2012

Justice has prevailed with one of the last big-ticket “equal levels of support” to secure.

The prestigious Golden Knights are working on a way to do a demonstration jump at our event, just as they had at the Christian event – including at least one atheist. There obviously was a lot of back and forth over the past year to secure this. 2 other teams turned us down, for frivolous and or very ‘convenient’ reasons.

We appreciate the GK commanders who came through for us, and we understand that it’s a difficult position to defend. Once again, I’d like to personally thank Fort Bragg leadership too. They really did take the ‘hard right’ rather than the easy wrong. I’m proud of the Golden Knights for coming on board for equality. The public will never really know the truth, but it was very heart-wrenching and yet there are no ‘bad guys’ in this story.

Not everyone on the parachute team is quite so supportive. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble, so I’m withholding the name.

From: <Name Withheld>

Subject: Parachute jump to Ft. Bragg Event

Message Body:

I noticed the announcement about the parachute jump into the Ft. Bragg event on the 31 March. I feel that it should be clarified that we are being forced to jump this event as a formal military tasking and are not given the option not to perform. To advertise jumpers as ”atheist” is inaccurate and does not portray the true nature of the jump. Thank you.

There are some very valid concerns here. I appreciated this person contacting me, and I hope he takes my reply to heart. I hope he reads it all the way through, and lets it sink in before replying or reacting.

<Name withheld>,

This is exactly the issue we raised when you were ‘forced’ to jump at the evangelical Christian proselytizing festival on September 25, 2010. The stated goal of that ‘rock the fort’ event was to convert as many non-Christian soldiers and civilians to Christianity as possible. We demanded that it be cancelled, ahead of time. Unfortunately, it was not cancelled. Instead, the Fort Bragg commanders “promised the same level of support for any other group.” This is what made it legal to have a massive pro-Christian, anti-atheist, anti-muslim, anti-jewish, anti-buddhist etc. event. It established a ‘limited public forum’, where ALL points of view are given EQUAL support.

You realize that one of the Golden Knights who was tasked to jump for that Christian event was an atheist, right?

It’s unfortunate that event was given so much garrison support (Fort Bragg’s Religious Support Office was the sponsor!) Every bit of our festival is ‘forced’ by that event. In fact, you must also jump at a Wiccan event, or Muslim event, or a Jewish event too. Potentially thousands of events, one for each religion. That’s the mess you’re in, I’m afraid you’re in a much worse position than you realized. Wish we all had time machines, my friend. But I promise you, we are taking the high road – we are voluntarily not ‘de-converting’ or ‘de-baptizing’ anyone. I’m 100% legally allowed to get up there on stage with a gas powered leaf blower and de-baptize 5,000 people. But I’m not doing that. Instead we’re using the opportunity to come out of the atheist closet and show you how harmless we are. We are sick of being oppressed and denigrated. We are sick of being banned from meeting regularly on base (still true at every base). If the military needs to have this conversation, fine. Then we can all go back to being soldiers.

We’ve opposed this situation from the beginning, and we invite you to join our complaints of this type of situation. Every time you see the evangelical Christians doing something with government time / money / buildings / resources… write your letter to them. Because I’m coming next – and they’re inviting me. I’ll take them up every time. Why?

The problem is the solution.

  • 2009 – 1 Rock the Fort [giant Christian membership-drive on a military base (not Fort Bragg)]
  • 2010 – 3 Rock the Forts on various bases, bigger and bigger each time.
  • Late 2010 – Atheist festival announced
  • 2011 – 0 Rock the Forts
  • 2012 – 0 Rock the Forts

We simply do not believe in god. We don’t ‘hate’ god or Christians. Most of us used to be Christians, so we really understand your culture very well. Perhaps some exposure to our culture would de-stigmatize us. You’d probably like us. In fact, you probably are already friends with some of us… Unlike their membership drive event, we have indeed included a disclaimer that says “No DoD endorsement implied.” So your request for clarification is already handled. But I’m not sure of where we advertized the jumpers as being atheists. I’ll change it if you point it out (call me).

With that being said, thank you for your service. Thank you for jumping at our event. Your position on this event does indeed weigh heavily on our hearts. Every military police officer, every soldier in the large set-up crew, every worker at the MWR office, all of them are going to be there for the atheist event… just like the Christian event. We get it, and we appreciate it. I’m not the one who owes you an apology, but I’ll offer one anyway.

Call me if you want to talk.

Very respectfully,

Justin Griffith

Military Director – American Atheists, Inc.

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