Back in December, I wrote about Rock Beyond Belief, a free festival that was going to be held at Fort Bragg with the backing of various secular and military foundations. The festival was, in part, a response to the “Rock the Fort” evangelical event, which was held at Fort Bragg with the full financial support of the military and which came under fire for its evangelical Christian message. The military’s response was clear: any other organization that wanted to put on a similar event would get similar treatment. This was not a First Amendment issue; ANYONE could put on an event. Billy Graham’s organization just happened to be first in line.
Seargent Justin Griffith therefore took it upon himself to organize the Rock Beyond Belief event, which would feature secular speakers and musicians also at Fort Bragg. He lined up speakers and support from across the country and around the world, including Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Jen McCreight and Hemant Mehta. The event was finally scheduled for April 2.
Then, last week, it all fell apart. In a move that was apparently against his own legal team’s advice, Garrison Commander Colonel Sicinski sent Justin a letter stating that there would be NO financial support from the military for the event, that the event had to be held in a significantly smaller venue and that all publicity had to clearly state that the event was NOT endorsed by the military.
Alas, these restrictions have forced Justin to cancel the event. My outrage after the fold. My reaction when I read about this was beyond frustration. I was generally stunned. Does Colonel Sicinski really think this will simply end here? That such a clear violation of the First Amendment can simply be ignored?
We’re not going to negotiate our constitutional rights.. We’re going to federal court.
And so they should. In fact, if this does go to court, it’s possible that this move will bring this issue even more publicity and attention than if Justin had been able to actually have the event. You can read more from Weinstein here.
If you are interested in helping out, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation could use your support. Donate, and help offset the costs of making sure that the First Amendment rights of U.S. soldiers are protected, regardless of what they do or don’t believe.
Want to do even more? Contact the military officials involved and tell them what you think. Check out the Action Alert from the Freedom from Religion Foundation.