FOLLOWING an evangelical Rock the Fort event at Fort Bragg last year – an event the military sponsored to the tune of over $50,000 – an atheist soldier, Sgt Justin Griffith, responded by organising Â a Rock Beyond Belief event, scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 2.
It was to feature speakers such as Richard Dawkins and Dan Barker, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Initially, Fort Bragg agreed that the event could take place. The FFRF received two written assurances that such an event would receive the same level of generous support from the Army base.
Lt Gen Frank Helmick, the commanding officer at the time, wrote to FFRF last Sept. 22:
[I] am willing to provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar non-Federal entities that address the needs of the Soldiers on this Installation.
And Lt Col. Nelson Van Eck, Jr., Staff Judge Advocate, wrote to FFRF on Feb. 17:
With regards to support for future events comparable to the Rock the Fort event, Fort Bragg continues to be willing to provide the same level of support to comparable events proposed by non-federal entities.
But this week Griffith was informed by Col Stephen J Sicinski, Garrison Commander at Fort Bragg, that Rock Beyond Belief could not be staged on the parade ground as originally planned. Instead, they were told the event could take place at one of two indoor theaters, with the larger one accommodating about 700 people.
Sicinski also stipulated and that all advertising materials must include a disclaimer that there is:
No endorsement [of the event] by Fort Bragg, the US Army, or Department of Defense.
No such disclaimer was demanded of the organizers of the evangelical event.
Sicinski also said Rock Beyond Belief:
Will maintain responsibility for all expenses associated with performers and presenters, transportation, audio-visual support, and meals for associated performers and presenters.
Griffith has now called off the event.
It’s heartbreaking. I have personally invested in this, both in money and time. And now I feel like I’ve strung people along.
And Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a planned speaker for the event, said his group now plans to file the lawsuit.
We’re not going to negotiate our constitutional rights. We’re going to federal court.
Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk