Fail Beyond Belief

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?

Well it won’t. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation immediately stepped up. President, Mikey Weinstein says:

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.


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. Donating to a charity to offset my taxes being spent illegally brainwashing soldiers… awesome!

  2. I had heard about this the other day and am glad to see there is a place where we can contribute to the cause. Thanks for the info!

  3. How depressing (and all the more so for not being shocking).

    Whenever I hear about something like this I remember a party I attended a few years back hosted by some friends of my wife. I ended up talking to a neighbor kid, who was about to graduate high school and planned to enlist in the Army [he wanted to specialize in EOD (i.e. bomb disposal) – good for him!]. My memory is a little fuzzy, but as I recall he told me about a Marine Drill Instructor of his acquaintance who required all of his recruits to go to church every Sunday. The kid hastened to add that freedom of religion didn’t apply to military recruits, as they had volunteered & pretty much had to do whatever their DI told them to do. I corrected him (not too forcefully I hope) and said that the First Amendment very much DID apply in that case, and what the DI was doing was un-constitutional. Obviously I don’t know with any certainty if the story the kid was telling me has any truth to it, but it certainly is plausible given the Ft. Bragg story & other horror stories I’ve heard in recent years.

  4. Col. Sicinski’s actions are absolutely appalling. I have no idea whether he is playing politics to further his career or playing favorites with his own brand of believer. Either way, he seems to have no concern for the Constitution or the welfare of the soldiers under his command.

    As a veteran this is especially disturbing. I certainly didn’t serve in order to support this shit. I suppose my service was worth less since people like me are not welcome at Fort Bragg. The worst part is that this is not really surprising.

    I do hope that the Federal Court decides on the side of justice in this case. It’s nice to have people like Mikey Weinstein on our side.

  5. I am so disappointed this happened. I live in NC and was excited this would happen right here. Justin and others have worked so hard.

    But I’m glad some legal action is to be taken. I did hear the cancellation announced on our local NPR station (even before I saw it in the blogosphere!), but haven’t seen any other media attention.

  6. I will second the fact that this is very disappointing. However, I also agree that taking these clowns to court will generate far more publicity – and all of it negative – than if they had just supported the show.

    Our military in the U.S. is just infested with compulsory worship, and something should be done about it.

  7. @DataJack: I think the positive press generated for our side by pulling off a fun event would’ve been orders of magnitude more beneficial to us than the negative press these troglodytes might incur.

    And that’s exactly why they canceled it.

  8. This sucks. I’m in the military (currently in Afghanistan), and maybe it’s just the infantry but it seems as if the majority of the guys in my platoon are agnostic/atheist/indifferent. I think there would be a pretty decent showing for an event like this.

  9. @shams:

    I suspect the problem lies up the chain of command. In my very modest experience, the guys that land in power on the domestic side of the Army tend to be crazy right wingers and petty tyrants. J.D. Ripper types obsessed with self promotion and keeping people underneath them at each other’s throats. That’s what makes me furious. My tax dollars are being wasted to annoy the people actually doing the important work because some self important jackasses have an idealogical axe to grind.

    These crypo-fascists need a swift kick in the balls.

  10. It is sad that it will take legal action to make our military, the ones who are supposedly there to fight for these freedoms, do the right thing. It just goes to show how corrosive this myth of a Christian nation is.

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