CFI Condemns Military’s Discriminatory Refusal to Support Nonreligious Event

March 9, 2011

The organizers of the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief concert at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have been forced to cancel the event because military authorities, led by Col. Stephen J. Sicinski, garrison commander at Fort Bragg, have withdrawn their support for the event.

The event was planned in response to Fort Bragg’s sponsorship, endorsement, and overwhelming support of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s Christian evangelical concert, called Rock the Fort, held last year. When atheists and secularists around the country protested the government’s support of this event and requested that it be canceled, officials at Fort Bragg tried to justify their support by stating the same level of support would be provided to anyone who organized a similar event. That pledge has proven to be untrue.

Until last Thursday, Rock Beyond Belief was shaping up to be an outstanding program of secular speakers and musical entertainment, including the likes of Richard Dawkins. It was scheduled to take place April 2.

Fort Bragg officials made it impossible for Rock Beyond Belief to see fruition by denying the use of an outdoor venue and financial support. Planning for Rock Beyond Belief has been halted, and it is unknown if it will ever take place.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the U.S. Army disclosed that it spent $52,475.80 in support of Rock the Fort.

The support by military officials of the evangelical efforts of a Christian organization while denying support to Rock Beyond Belief represents a flagrant misuse of power and vividly illustrates prejudice against the nonreligious, in particular nonreligious military personnel who are serving our country.

The discriminatory actions by military officials at Fort Bragg are not only outrageous but probably illegal as well. Department of Defense directives prohibit distribution of benefits on a selective basis. In fact, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an advocacy group that watches for signs of religious bias in the military, is planning a lawsuit over the cancellation, arguing that Fort Bragg leaders have shown clear favoritism toward evangelical Christians at the expense of other groups.

If you want more information about MRFF’s lawsuit, please visit MRFF’s website:       http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/

CFI condemns the discriminatory conduct of the officials at Fort Bragg. Although atheist soldiers bleed the same as Christian soldiers, the garrison commander apparently thinks they do not deserve the same respect. We urge you to tell the garrison commander otherwise. You can complain about the favoritism shown toward evangelical Christianity and discrimination against nonreligious soldiers and civilians by writing to:

Ben Abel
Public Affairs Officer
Fort Bragg
benjamin.abel@us.army.mil