Rock Beyond Belief Cancelled, Weinstein Promises Lawsuit

Updated with Weinstein quote.

Just a few days after announcing its planned date, the atheist response to the Billy Graham “Rock the Fort,” “Rock Beyond Belief,” has been cancelled — not by the US Army post at Fort Bragg, which had agreed to host it, nor by critics, who have been silent or nonexistent.

“Rock Beyond Belief” cancelled itself.  And as predictably as the sun rising in the East, Michael Weinstein has announced plans to sue the US Army as a result.

It almost seems like choreography.

The reasons for the cancellation include an apparent lack of financial support from Fort Bragg and the venue provided by Fort Bragg.  Importantly, more than the money or the location Fort Bragg was providing, Michael Weinstein has made an issue of what the Army was providing when compared to the prior “Rock the Fort:”

An advocacy group that watches for signs of religious bias in the military says it plans to file a lawsuit over the cancellation, arguing that Fort Bragg leaders have shown clear favoritism toward evangelical Christians at the expense of other groups…

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and a planned speaker for the event, said his group plans to file the lawsuit.

Update: In fact, Weinstein says it was all about “Rock the Fort,” not “Rock Beyond Belief:”

“We feel that we’ve been completely bamboozled,” Weinstein said. “This is a scandalous outrage by the U.S. Army to have led us on for months thinking that we would be allowed to have an event to counter their fundamentalist Christian orgy that they allowed.”  (emphasis added)

Weinstein’s quote is misleading, since the decision by the Army was to approve, not disapprove, the event.  His insinuation about “favoritism” in financial support is surprisingly disingenuous.  In its approval of the event, Fort Bragg’s Col. Stephen Sicinski 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.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by another atheist organization, the official documentation following last year’s “Rock the Fort,” now publicized, said this:

All artist flight fees, all artist performance fees, and all stage fees were funded by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The accusation of “favoritism” is based solely on the Army’s announcement of approval, and nothing in that approval indicates a financial treatment unique to “Rock Beyond Belief.”  Thus, the guidance given to “Rock Beyond Belief,” contrary to the Weinstein accusation, seems to be consistent with what occurred during Rock the Fort.  (For what its worth, Fort Bragg doesn’t say RBB couldn’t ask the military for funds; it only said that RBB, not the military, is responsible for the expenses.)

With regard to the venue, RBB had wanted to use the parade field, as had “Rock the Fort.”  From Sicinski’s approval:

As [the] planned program consists of primarily of speakers and musical performers (who are not chart-makers), the venue for [the] event will be the Main Post Theater or the York Theater.

Nothing in the approval of the atheist event indicates any malice; in fact, it appears the Army was even trying to be helpful.  Unlike “Rock the Fort,” “Rock Beyond Belief” did not have bouncy castles, face painting, parachutists, or other events that required outdoor facilities.  Even some RBB supporters have ribbed the event because, despite having “Rock” in its name, its program is almost entirely invited speakers, not musical artists.  No public statement to date has indicated anything other than speakers and singers would be at the event.  A theater (seating 700, according to some sources) seems entirely appropriate.

While Weinstein may not like the order approving the military’s hosting of the event, no one ever claimed the military would provide everything “Rock Beyond Belief” wanted.  General Helmick and his staff repeatedly said they would provide “similar support” for “comparable” events.  The “support” in the approval was not altogether inequitable compare to that seemingly provided to other events.

Again, the event was approved.  No person in the military said atheists could not fellowship with like minded non-believers.  “Rock Beyond Belief” chose to cancel itself.  The approval order also did not deny “Rock Beyond Belief” any further support they might think to request.

For his part, Weinstein has a history of going off prematurely.  (See, for example, the reason his previous lawsuits against the military have been dismissed: he filed his lawsuits before normal administrative systems had been used, and the courts tossed out the lawsuits as a result.)  This case is no different.  In his typical “fire, aim, ready” mantra, Weinstein planned his attack on the Army poorly.

Weinstein has said he plans to sue because the US Army showed “favoritism;” ie, it did not provide the same level of support to “Rock Beyond Belief” as it did “Rock the Fort,” thus “favoring” the Christian event over the atheist one.  His case would have been demonstrable if the atheist event actually happened.  Since it didn’t, any support they may have gotten is now conjecture.  In addition, different is not the same as inequitable.  For example, accusing the Army of violating the Constitution because it authorized the parade field for one event but a theatre for the other is not actionable discrimination.  There is no Consitutional guarantee to the same geographic real estate from one group to another.

So why did the plug get pulled?  There are a couple of speculative reasons:

Rock Beyond Belief sincerely cannot continue without financial support for the invited speakers.  If that is the case, it was correct to cancel the event, but wrong for Weinstein to accuse the Army of disparate treatment.  Contrary to the accusations, the financial guidance to the events appears to have been similar.

Rock Beyond Belief was never going to happen without a scandal.  Not that those who wanted it weren’t sincere, but Weinstein’s prior conduct (see, for example, USAFA) has indicated that no matter how far the military has bent over backwards trying to make him happy, he still finds reason to complain (or sue). 

Rock Beyond Belief may still happen.  It didn’t have to be canceled, and it can still be reinstated.  The “on again, off again” accusations may be an effort on Weinstein’s part to raise publicity or funds; regrettably, at the expense of the US Army’s image.

Michael Weinstein knew this was the best he could get.  If “Rock Beyond Belief” had gone off without a hitch, Weinstein’s mantra of the victimhood of the non-Christian in the US military would have suffered.  Weinstein’s cause benefits from a perceived “hostility” between the military and non-Christians; to have a “smooth” event for non-Christians in the same US military he accuses of being “Christianized” would have undermined his efforts.  In addition, if RBB had partially filled a large theater, it would be difficult to later complain about the Army’s support because actual attendance numbers would defend the Army’s response.  Thus, in order to use “Rock Beyond Belief” to further his agenda, Weinstein has to use it now, and he gets more publicity from it being “cancelled” than complaining but allowing the event to proceed.

As already stated, “Rock Beyond Belief” can still go on, and there is no apparent reason it shouldn’t.  Atheist servicemembers are free to fellowship together, and Fort Bragg is even offering to provide them a forum to do so on a grand scale in its approval of “Rock Beyond Belief.”  Whether or not RBB chooses to use it is its own decision.

There is nothing in Fort Bragg’s response that indicates their level of support has anything to do with the ideology of the event.  In addition, there is nothing in Fort Bragg’s approval that prevents the event from occurring.

It remains to be seen whether Weinstein will follow through on his legal threat, as he frequently fails to do.  He previously indicated he was unable to find a lawyer in all of North Carolina willing to take his case.

Which might tell you something…

Also at the Christian Post.


  • As usual, JD’s speculation is way off the mark. The reasons that moving the event to a 700 seat indoor theater make it impossible to hold this event are:

    1) the event was planned as an outdoor event with booths for the participating organizations, outdoor activities for the children, etc., just like the Billy Graham Rock the Fort event had, and;

    2.) the event’s keynote speaker alone typically draws an audience much larger than the 700 seat theater can hold. That’s not even counting the people that the musical acts and other speakers, some of whom draw also large audiences, will draw. The event has to be held at the same outdoor venue that the Billy Graham event was held at to accommodate the size of the crowd that’s likely to show up for a free event with a big name speaker that’s open to the public.

    As for the money issue, the speakers for the event are waiving their usual fees, and a private donor has already pledged the money to cover the expenses of the speakers and performers. But, with any event on this scale, there are other expenses. A FOIA request for the budget of the Billy Graham event shows that Fort Bragg covered over $50,000 of these expenses for that event, but is refusing to cover these same expenses for Rock Beyond Belief.

    And, finally, Fort Bragg is demanding that Rock Beyond Belief include a disclaimer on all advertising materials stating that Fort Bragg does not endorse this event, while the post not only endorsed the Billy Graham event but officially co-sponsored it.

    LTG Helmick, as well as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, promised that the same level of support provided to the Billy Graham event would be provided to any other group that wanted to hold a similar event? Does that sound like what’s happening here?

    JD’s assertion that MRFF wanted this event to fail is also way off base. We were always prepared for the possibility that Fort Bragg might pull something at the last minute, which is what has unfortunately now happened, but up until that we were getting as excited about the event as anyone else. Mikey was planning to speak at it, and I was really looking forward to a road trip to North Carolina with my friends and getting to meet some of the people I’ve known online and by phone for years but have never met in person. We’re incredibly disappointed by what’s happened.

  • Maybe their preachers/speakers need to do it for the “cause” instead the money? Maybe the militant-atheists need to contribute to the “cause” more (hard because most are on welfare)? Maybe WHINEstein needs to sell some of his high-power cars to fund the “cause”?

    Or maybe this militant-atheists need to stop acting like undeveloped-children?

  • I wanted to record the whole event and use the recordings as part of my experimental insomnia treatment using only natural methods. I once made a patient, high on cocaine and amphetamines, listen to a tape of atheists babbling about “reason” and “freethinking” and “science” and how everyone is after them and all that cliched, predictable, boring pseudo-intellectual stuff…the dude was in a deep coma after 3.5 minutes!

    With “Boredom Beyond Belief” gone where will i find the audio material?

    I can get a little comedy from Weinstein thu…its like watching Wilie Coyote getting hurt without having to chase Roadrunner!

  • bs beyond belief

    Its obvious […] even a great speaker like Richard Dawkins (and the unknown musicians) would not bring in a crowd to fill the space for the eight hour span proposed. What an embarrassment for Mr. Dawkins, and how very disappointing for the secular community who would have enjoyed hearing Mr. Dawkins speak at an intimate venue like the York Theater. Why wasn’t Dawkins advertising his commitment to RBB on his website? He has plenty of future events where he will be appearing listed, yet strangely not this one. Sounds like a setup for a lawsuit and nothing more.

    Edited by Admin

  • Pete … Either you either didn’t read my comment or you have a severe reading comprehension problem. Did you miss the part where I said that the speakers for the event are waiving their usual fees, and that a private donor has already pledged the money to cover the expenses of the speakers and performers? Because of this, the budget for Rock Beyond Belief comes in significantly lower than the budget for the Billy Graham event did. And, I’m assuming that by your reasoning (and I use the word loosely) that you think that the Billy Graham people took over $50,000 from Fort Bragg for their event because most Christians are on welfare.

    bs … Dr. Dawkins only has two upcoming events listed on his website last time I checked, and the time between Fort Bragg approving the date last week and the letter that forced the event to be cancelled was so short that it’s no big surprise that the event never even had a chance to get listed on the site. As for not filling the parade field, the Billy Graham event didn’t come anywhere close to filling the entire field. In fact, the crowd that they pulled in was only a fraction of what they had projected. Dr. Dawkins, who alone typically draws an audience much larger than the theater can accommodate, is just one of the speakers. Several of the other speakers also typically draw pretty big audiences. And, one of the musical acts that was scheduled to appear is more popular than all of the musical acts at the Billy Graham event combined. So the projected attendance is in the thousands, not the hundreds. There were also going to be booths for the participating organizations and vendors along the sides of the field, and a kiddie land for the children, just like they had at the Billy Graham event. None of this can be done indoors.

  • bs beyond belief

    Obviously according to Ft. Bragg, the audience expectations were no where near in the thousands. The fliers said nothing of kid events, only speakers, speakers, speakers, and a musical performer or two. Hardly a “top” event. Poor planning and the whining is only making it more pathetic.

  • Actually, I think it was the excellent planning that took Fort Bragg by surprise and made them realize that this really was going to be an event on the same scale as the Billy Graham event, with a world-famous keynote speaker that people will travel from quite a distance to hear. As for not having publicized all the details like the stuff for kids, which has been part of the plan from the very beginning, Fort Bragg only approved the date last week, so no real advertising had even been done yet.

  • bs beyond belief

    Unless you’ve actually been to events at the parade field, you have no concept of what is needed to fill it. The projection for Billy Graham RTF was huge, and I know many people who attended (voluntarily). The heat was unbearable for most and the crowd died down quickly. As a resident of this area and someone who has attended many events at the parade field I see no possible way the reported line up would draw a crowd anywhere near what you claim. Heck, a free concert in downtown Fayetteville with Diamond Rio (perty dern popular in these parts) with bouncy houses, face painting, food and beer huts did not draw “thousands”. I think the people at Bragg are capable of determining what will work and what wont for their venues.

  • Fort Bragg covered over $50,000 of these expenses for that event, but is refusing to cover these same expenses for Rock Beyond Belief.

    That refusal has not been made public. Please support your accusation with evidence.

    the crowd that they pulled in was only a fraction of what they had projected.

    Ok, what makes you think your event is any different?

    And, one of the musical acts that was scheduled to appear is more popular than all of the musical acts at the Billy Graham event combined.

    Please support your accusation with evidence. Incidentally, the YouTube metric doesn’t really compare to the Grammy-nominated, Top 100, and two near gold records produced by one of the musical acts of the “Billy Graham event.” (That’s Hawk Nelson, by the way.)

    LTG Helmick…promised that the same level of support provided to the Billy Graham event would be provided to any other group that wanted to hold a similar event?

    That’s not what he said. You need to re-read the letter.

    Here’s an important quote from the letter you’re citing, emphasis added:

    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.

    world-famous keynote speaker that people will travel from quite a distance to hear…Mikey was planning to speak at it, and I was really looking forward to a road trip to North Carolina with my friends

    Again, you need to re-read the General’s letter. He didn’t offer to host a speaker to draw crowds from “quite a distance.” He didn’t offer to do it for you or Weinstein. His offer was to support the “needs of the Soldiers on this Installation.”

    Fort Bragg only approved the date last week, so no real advertising had even been done yet

    Advertising wasn’t the issue. The Colonel’s statement indicated that Fort Bragg hadn’t been told about anything more than speakers and a musical act or two. You can’t get support for requirements you don’t communicate.

    Since you brought it up, though — you’ve done so little advertising that people don’t even know what’s going to happen at Rock Beyond Belief, yet you claim to know the size of the anticipated crowd. One of those statements is intellectually dishonest.

    …[The] assertion that MRFF wanted this event to fail…

    You shouldn’t throw stones when you live in your own reading comprehension glass house.

  • Come on JD, you’re not up to your usual obsessive standards of rooting out everything posted anywhere by anybody about MRFF or anything related to MRFF! The budget information from the FOIA request showing that Fort Bragg spent over $50,000 on the Billy Graham event, and the letter from Fort Bragg refusing to cover these same expenses for Rock Beyond Belief absolutely have been made public. Apparently, you just haven’t looked hard enough.

    Also, the letter from the Staff Judge Advocate’s office promised the same level of support to Rock Beyond Belief without saying anything about addressing the needs of the soldiers on the installation. But even with Helmick’s proviso, this event absolutely would address the needs of the soldiers on the installation — all of the non-theist soldiers. And, anyway, the Billy Graham event was designed to benefit the surrounding civilian churches and other Christian groups as much as the soldiers, so all the secularist, atheist, and freethinker groups in the region, hundreds of whose members would be coming to Rock Beyond Belief, are comparable to the civilian churches and evangelistic Christian groups that Fort Bragg thought it was just fine to benefit by holding the Billy Graham event.

  • You apparently haven’t read the article above. The FOIA was cited to defend the Colonel’s letter, because it showed that the Colonel communicated guidance to RBB that was similar to the way RtF was executed.

    Perhaps you should try reading what you’re criticizing.

  • Rock The Fort: Over $50,000 in funding from Fort Bragg
    Rock Beyond Belief: $0 in funding from Fort Bragg

    Rock The Fort: A parade field capable of accommodating thousands of people and outdoor activities
    Rock Beyond Belief: A 700 seat theater that can’t even accommodate the typical turnout for the keynote speaker, and makes the event unable to have any of its planned outdoor activities

    Rock The Fort: Officially endorsed, co-sponsored, and advertised by Fort Bragg (over $12,000 in advertising costs)
    Rock Beyond Belief: Must place disclaimers on all advertising materials stating that Fort Bragg does not endorse the event

    Where are the similarities that you are claiming were communicated in the colonel’s “guidance”? Please be specific.

  • Chris,

    What is the normal turnout for your key note speaker?


    Can we get a FOIA request to see the RBB official support request package?

  • The Colonel said RBB was responsible for performer’s expenses. As the FOIA showed, Fort Bragg did not pay performer expenses for RtF. Thus, in that regard, the two are similar. The Colonel’s letter does not, as you imply, put a blanket ban on any fund requests. All of this was in the article above. Try reading.

    You have yet to show that RBB has been denied any funding other than that which RtF also did not receive. For example, where is the letter requesting PortaJohns? You can’t say its been denied if it hasn’t been requested.

    Dealer – The request would be releasable under FOIA. It might reveal what funding has actually been requested. It seems right now that nothing has been requested, and the accusations are based solely on the Colonel’s letter.

    There is a key flaw in the MRFF logic they have yet to realize (or publicly acknowledge). It will likely be their undoing.

  • Dealer … Dr. Dawkins typically sells out venues that are over 1,000 seats up to over 2,000 seats, even when they are not free events. When he speaks at events that are free, such as at universities, they usually have to set up a second location where the overflow crowd can watch the event via video feed, and even with that sometimes have to turn people away.

    JD … A chart of the expenses paid for RTF that RBB asked for is now posted on the RBB website. This chart consolidates the items into eight categories, but the line item numbers from the RTF budget are provided, so you can look up which specific items are included in each category in the RTF budget (which I’m assuming you already have). As you will see, the budget presented by RBB comes in at about $13,000 less than the RTF budget.

  • Your reference doesn’t provide the answer to the question. Where is the denial of those funds? Where is the document, for example, denying advertising funds? The Colonel’s letter does not address that issue.

  • JD … I know you have to keep up the appearance that you have some sort of valid argument here, but are you really that dense? If Fort Bragg is requiring a disclaimer on RBB’s advertising materials stating that the post does not endorse the event, do you really think that the post is at the same time agreeing to pay for these advertising materials?

  • As you quoted in you post, the colonel’s letter states that: “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.”

    So, let’s look at these four things that RTF received funding for that the colonel explicitly stated in his letter that RBB would be denied funding for:

    Expenses associated with performers and presenters: RTF got $9,870

    Transportation: RTF got $2,850

    Audio/visual support: RTF got $7,220

    Meals: RTF got $7,730

    Do you want to throw in the towel yet, JD?

  • That leaves us with three of the categories of funding that RTF received that RBB asked for but would not receive: Printing, the Kiddie Land, and Parade Field related supplies.

    Obviously, if RBB were to take place in an indoor 700 seat theater, the Kiddie Land and Parade Field supplies are automatically denied because these are items are specifically for the outdoor event that was planned.

    Printing would be part of advertising, so, just like advertising, do you really think that the colonel was saying that the post was going to pay for the printing of materials that are required to carry a disclaimer saying that the post does not endorse the event?

    Give up yet, JD?

  • bs beyond belief

    I wonder if threatening to sue the military for using the fitness test before asking for their ‘support’ has anything to do with their less than enthusiastic offerings to help RBB happen. Don’t crap where you eat should be the moral of this story.

  • bs … you apparently don’t realize that Fort Bragg can’t violate the DoD regulations on “Selective Benefit” even if they are ticked off about the completely separate issue of the spiritual fitness test (which I highly doubt has anything to do with COL Sicinski’s actions anyway).

  • I find it amazing that RBB needs to compare itself to another group. Why can’t they simply hold their event based on the level of support that Ft Bragg gives them. THEN, after the event, determine if the same level of support was provided based on soldier’s needs.

    Once again, this is a typical case that Mikey will lose…no doubt about it.

    RBB reminds me of the democrats in Wisconsin…if they don’t get their way, they don’t play.

    I wonder just how long it will take MRFF & Chris to spin their loss in court, once again. This is really starting to get silly. I never realized people loved losing so much. But then again, losing is winning for Mikey. The more he stirs the pot and the more court cases he loses, the more money he can suck from MRFFs coffers. Sickening…

  • @Chris…why are you so hell-bent on JD giving up and stating he’s wrong?

    Your track record is hilarious at best…You talk a good game and make insinuation after insinuation, yet you are behind a group that loses case after case proving you are the one that should give up.

    JDs track record speaks for itself…the side he supports continually wins in court. Your side is 0 for what now? And you have the audacity to post here and try to discredit him?

    So, I guess we will have to see the courts settle this one once again. You ready to eat some crow again???

  • RBB has to compare itself to another event because DoD regulations explicitly state that if one non-federal entity is given support for an event, the command must be “willing and able” to provide the same level of support to any other non-federal entity for a comparable event. The organizers of RBB have planned an event that is comparable to RTF, but are not receiving the same level of support received by RTF. This “based on soldiers needs” line that LTG Helmick added to his promise of support is irrelevant because nothing in the DoD regulations include such a condition. Fort Bragg just had a golden opportunity to show that the Army treats non-theist soldiers the same way it treats Christian soldiers, and they blew it big time. End of story.

  • @Chris…well, I guess another judge will have to decide what the “end of story” is. MRFF will lose yet again.

    RBB pulled the plug, simple as that. What should have happened is that RBB should have continued their planning, held the event and argue over the level of support after the event.

    The way I look at it is this…if RBB is as serious as they say they are, they would host the event, regardless of level of support. If the “non-theist” soldiers are truly their #1 priority, they would host the event and keep all of the other issues to the side until after the event. I think it’s safe to say that RBB lost sight of their true cause and got hung up on politics and legalities. Hold the event, simple as that. File a lawsuit after the event.

    A judge is gonna laugh at this one…and Mikey is gonna be looking like a fool yet again.

  • And just what do you suggest RBB do with the people who won’t fit in the theater and the kids of the people who bring kids? And where do you suggest RBB have the participating organizations and vendors set up? This entire event was planned over the past five months as an outdoor event. It can’t be moved to a small indoor theater that isn’t even capable of accommodating the number of people who typically show up to here the keynote speaker, let alone the other speakers and bands. Do you really not understand this? The colonel’s last minute change of venue bombshell has given RBB no other option but to cancel the event.

  • You apparently haven’t caught on. If you provide evidence that RBB communicated to the Colonel that it was an inherently outdoor event, you’d gain more sympathy. Assuming, of course, that actually happened. The Colonel’s letter clearly says he understood RBB to be “primarily composed of speakers and musical performers.” In fact, that’s what everyone thought until RBB was canceled and suddenly there was talk of Kiddie Land.

    Your defensive attitude belies the fact your group might actually be making this assertion after the fact. On the other hand, I’m sure people are surprised to hear that a Dawkins speaking event was canceled because there was no place to put the bouncy castle.

    It is public knowledge that a projected attendance of 2500 was required to justify access to the parade field. The supposition that Dawkins may fill a theatre of 700 does not invalidate that threshold.

  • bs beyond belief

    The parade field has one stage tucked in the corner of a very very large field. So picture Dawkins drawing in several THOUSAND people who have to sit on lawnchairs and blankets (regardless of the weather), while they convince their kiddies to wait for the man on stage to stop speaking before they go to the bouncy house or grab them some sodie-pop and hotdogs or run to the port-a-johns. Again, only someone who has NEVER BEEN to an event at the parade field would think this would actually work. Bragg made the right call, this had a giant FAIL sign hung all over the non-existent advertising. And I agree JD, as part of the non-theist community RBB did us a disservice by denying us the opportunity to hear Dawkins speak locally. DUMP the speakers nobody wants to hear and the bands no one has heard of and bring the man to Bragg. This is not an event “for the rest of us”, this is an opportunity for an egomaniac to take his ball and go home.

  • @Chris: Did RBB ask those questions before they canceled the event? Seems to me that RBB should have responded to the Ft Bragg officials with those questions as opposed to quitting and complaining about it.

  • bs … picture the EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN PREACHERS drawing in several THOUSAND people who had to sit on lawnchairs and blankets (regardless of the weather), while they convinced their kiddies to wait for the man on stage to stop speaking before they went to the bouncy house or grab them some sodie-pop and hotdogs or run to the port-a-johns. THAT WOULD BE THE PICTURE OF ROCK THE FORT!

    As for the stage? Well Rock the Fort had quite a nice stage set up, courtesy of Fort Bragg, and that is what RBB asked for as part of getting the same support for this comparable event!

  • bs beyond belief

    Actually, RTF was a concert with bands my Christian (and also not Christian) friends went to see because they were well known to them. They endured the outdoor conditions because they were excited to see the BANDS, hear the music, and sing the praises of Jesus. The speakers were minimal. It was a well planned event that suffered from the blazing sun of the open field. As someone who has attended many event at the parade field, I can attest that speakers are not well heard; the sound system is set up for MUSIC. Single speaking voices do nothing but echo unless you are right in front of the stage. And that very nice stage is the only permanent structure on the field and the one I am speaking of, so of course it would be provided IF it were appropriate for the proposed event, which Bragg determined it is not.

  • bs is a good name for you. I have video shot by one of MRFF’s people who went to the Rock the Fort event with a video camera. He turned the camera on as he was approaching the field from a distance to show how far away the speakers could be heard from, so we know for a fact that you could hear them quite clearly from quite a distance away from the field. As for the bands, just like the Christian bands were well known to the Christian audience at Rock the Fort, the musicians who were scheduled to appear at Rock Beyond Belief are well known to the secular community. One is a nationally known act who has quite a following and has drawn praise (no pun intended) from people like Bill Maher, Joni Mitchell, and other nationally known performers. Does it really surprise you that the Christian community is just as unfamiliar with the popular secular acts ad the secular community is with the popular Christian acts. RBB had five musical acts booked, and as for there being more speakers than musical acts, our audience is actually just as interested (if not more interested) in hearing a world-renowned scientist and the other speakers as they are in listening to the musical acts. You might not understand what appeals to a secular audience, the organizers of RBB do, and the line-up was perfect for this audience. As a person who was planning to be there myself, the first thing I told my friends when asking if they wanted to take a road trip to North Carolina for the event was that Richard Dawkins was the keynote speaker. I told them about the musical acts second.

  • bs beyond belief

    um, I am part of ‘the secular audience’ and I hadn’t heard of any but one of the musical acts scheduled to perform. so no, I would not prefer to sit in a field as apposed to a theater to listen to Mr. Dawkins. i’ll take my kids to the events on bragg that are meant for kids, and I’ll travel to Durham or Greensboro to see Mr. Dawkins when he travels here again. Did you really even have Dawkins? or is this just more bs to build your lawsuit and make it seem credible? You pulled out so quickly… I’d love to see the proof of his commitment to be there at all.

  • Richard Dawkins put SGT Griffith’s post from the RBB website up on his own website to explain why the event was cancelled. Is that enough proof for you?

  • Read comment #20 on the post I linked to above, posted by Richard Dawkins, which says “I was booked long ago to speak at this event, and had been looking forward to it.”

  • Chris,

    You previously said Dawkins “typically draws an audience much larger than the 700 seat theater can hold.” Several of the events listed on his site would not accommodate him if that were true. There are a few exceptions, but he has routinely scheduled events with capacities of only 400 or so, even when he is not the only speaker. Even the “large” “humanist/atheist” events he attends are, with one exception, occurring in hotels and theatres with far less capacity than Fort Bragg’s parade field. Even when he shares the stage with Zimmerman, the audience size is not projected to be big enough to warrant the parade grounds.

    In addition, not a single one indicated there were bouncy castles or other outdoor facilities.

    Why, then, is the event at Fort Bragg unique? What is special about Fort Bragg that will draw more people than all the other events Dawkins attends?

    What proof do you have — more than just your say so — that the event will draw the crowd that would qualify RBB for the facilities you are demanding?

    “Rock Beyond Belief” was granted a facility comparable to other events Dawkins and his compatriots have used in other places. Seems it would have been wise to celebrate the “religious freedom” the military was supporting for its troops, rather than claiming, as Weinstein did, that approving the theatre somehow “emboldens our Islamic enemies.”

  • JD … You’re comapring apples to oranges. The fact that Dr. Dawkins sometimes appears in smaller venues doesn’t have anything to do with him selling out larger ones. If he appears somewhere with a capacity of 400 seats, then 400 tickets are sold and those who can’t get tickets are out of luck. RBB is free and open to the public, meaning that people don’t have to have tickets. Therefore, we must base attendance projections on other events that were free and open to the public. A survey of Dr. Dawkins’s recent appearances (one of which was also in North Carolina) shows that large numbers of people have had to be turned away from venues significantly larger than the theater at Fort Bragg, and that at some of these events a second location had to be set up where the overflow crowd could watch the event via a video feed. RBB has to be equipped to accommodate a crowd of the size that’s typical of similar events, which is larger than the capacity of the theater.

    But, more importantly (and so obvious that I can’t believe I even have to say it), the DoD regulations don’t mean by “comparable” that the venue is to be “comparable” to past venues that a speaker or performers has appeared at. It means “comparable” to to the venue provided other “comparable” events supported by the command.

  • The regs don’t mention venue. The say “similar support [for] comparable events.” They do not say identical support for any event.

    Fort Bragg made its assessment and decision based on the information provided. You will have a hard time proving in court that the US Army made its decision based solely on the ideology of the event, as Weinstein now asserts.

    The bigger question you should be prepared to answer is what makes RBB “comparable” to RtF?

  • Part of the SUPPORT for RTF was the use of a venue capable of accommodating the event as proposed and planned, as well as all of the expenses related to using that venue. And, you’re right that the regulations don’t say “identical.” If Fort Bragg had another outdoor venue that was suitable for RBB, and had offered that, RBB would be proceeding as planned.

    What makes RBB comparable to RTF?

    RTF was an all-afternoon outdoor event with speakers and performers of interest to its audience, ranging from well-known to not so well-known
    RBB was to be an all-afternoon outdoor event with speakers and performers of interest to its audience, ranging from well-known to not so well-known

    RTF was open to civilian churches and church groups to set up information booths
    RBB was to be open to secular organizations to set up information booths

    RTF was a family-friendly event with activities for children as well as adults
    RBB was to be a family-friendly event with activities for children as well as adults (heathens have kids too)

    The only difference is that RTF was a Christian event and RBB was to be a secular event.

  • bs beyond belief

    I think the only difference is that events hosted by the Billy Graham organization typically draw crowds over 10,000 (and that’s a conservative number), while the numbers for RBB were unknown and estimated to be far less than what they required for the parade field. I still don’t get why you canned the whole thing instead of actually having a secular event on Bragg (wasn’t that the purpose?) with the one guy people actually want to see. You guys are really feeding the image of the secular community that religious people want everyone to embrace – a bunch of bitter, angry, in your face god-haters who will sue if they don’t get what they want.

  • First of all, the Billy Graham event drew nothing even remotely close to 10,000 people. I have video showing the “crowd.” Second, why should RBB have to change the event that’s been planned over the past five months? If RTF had the right to have the type of event it wanted to have, why doesn’t RBB have the same right to hold the comparable event that was planned? RBB was not planned as a small speaking event for one speaker. It was planned as an 8-hour outdoor event with a number of speakers, musical performers, and a very funny host (who is extremely well known and popular among secularists from his blog, radio show, and TV appearances) to emcee the whole thing. RBB incontrovertibly has the DoD regulations on its side here, no matter how much you don’t like it.

  • bs beyond belief

    You’ve actually proven my point. If the Billy Graham organization could not draw more than a couple thousand to Ft. Bragg (which is in the heart of the bible belt) when they typically bring in upwards of 10,000 or more, why would you ever believe an anti-religion pro-atheist agenda would do better? Bragg has the right to cut their losses on RTF and not make the same mistake again. They make their decision based on how many THEY anticipate will attend.

    But you didn’t answer my question on why you just canned the whole thing instead of letting something happen for the secular folks in the area. Well, actually you did.

  • Chris Rodda, representing the MRFF, is conflating some fairly important points (or she’s ignorant of them, which, as the MRFF researcher, probably means the MRFF is as well). They’ll be discussed at length over the coming week.

    Despite all the pontificating above, to this point she has yet to justify her position that “Rock Beyond Belief” was treated inequitably. Everyone can certainly feel how they please. But if you plan to do more than make noise in the federal lawsuit you say you’re going to file, you’re going to need more than feelings.

  • Actually, it was poor planning on RTF’s part to schedule their event for the same day as a more popular local event that was going on nearby. And, just for the record, RBB was not going to be an anti-religion event. Its only “agenda” was to encourage non-theists to be who they are (as they should be able to be in the military) and to celebrate the religious freedom promised to all by the separation of church and state.

  • OK, JD … I’ll be looking forward to seeing what other ways you come up with to twist this over the coming week. In the meantime, I really should get back to other things, like finishing the piece I’m writing about you and your little blog here. I have to tell you, you’re a hard person to find a photo of, but I finally got one. Can’t have a feature article about you without letting everyone see your mug, now can we?

  • Damn JD, now they are even stalking you, a few months ago you were a “nobody” with “1 or 2 readers” hihihi…

    Lets face facts, shall we? MRFF functions on this mindset: “Our cause is the right cause so ANYTHING goes.”

    Lying, bullying, deceiving…anything. They are shameless, immoral bullies and people have to take them for what they are and start to act accordingly.

    But this goes well beyond religion or the US Military, MRFF is just one of the many faces of the collectivist machine that infiltrated media, entertainment, arts and culture, finances and government. All over the Western civilization, the eternal “battle” between the Collective and the Individual is starting and those who beleive in the Individual should start getting ready.

    PS – Dont doubt for a second that MRFF has some filthy-rich super-powerful people backing them up.

  • Chris Rodda : I have to tell you, you’re a hard person to find a photo of, but I finally got one. Can’t have a feature article about you without letting everyone see your mug, now can we?

    Don’t you think your time could be better spent supporting RBB and helping them have their event vs. finding a picture of JD and writing about him? WOW! Guess I know where your priorties are.

  • Don’t worry, Lt Frank, I can multi-task.

  • Chris Rodda :Don’t worry, Lt Frank, I can multi-task.

    Ok…so it should be no problem to get RBB back on the schedule and help them plan it out. I think everyone would agree that this event should take place, including myself.

  • 1. The primary question, it seems to me, is whether these events are chapel (or chaplain) sponsored, free exercise events supported voluntarily by non-DoD entities like Billy Graham or the MRFF, or whether DoD is providing support for these non-DoD entities to do their own thing. It seems to me that the only reason to host these events on a military installation is that the command has determined that this sort of activities (RBB and RTF) support the free exercise rights of Soldiers and their families. It is curious to me, then, that the commander assigned MWR as RBB’s sponsor. If it is a free exercise event, I wonder why the garrison chaplain didn’t serve as the sponsor. Chaplain sponsorship, BTW, does not imply endorsement of the views presented, just orderly accommodation of requested religious practices. A Christian chaplain can “sponsor” for example a Muslim or Jewish lay leader, to ensure that their events receive the support they need and so that all the proper procedures are followed.
    2. It is impossible to tell with certainty from RBB’s FOIA posting whether the ~ $50k spent on RTF was appropriated or non-appropriated (i.e. chapel offering) dollars. Based on the account name, it looks like a list of expenses from the CTOF or Chaplains Tithes and Offerings Fund. It is entirely appropriate for Protestant chapel congregations to use chapel offerings for a Protestant event like RTF. It wouldn’t be appropriate to force Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim congregations to support an atheist event with offering dollars (or for Catholics, Muslims or Jews to be forced to give to Protestant events, for that matter). If people want to give to support an atheist event, it is technically possible to create a CTOF sub-account to receive offerings for this purpose, even if there is no regular atheist religious assembly. But that goes back to question 1. Was this a chaplain-sponsored free-exercise event, or an MWR event?
    3. Approximately 50% of the Army voluntarily identified themselves as some sort of Protestant (i.e non-Catholic, non-Orthodox) Christian. Approximately 0.5% voluntarily identified themselves as atheists. That’s two orders of magnitude difference. Sorry, nobody gets to claim “no preference” as their own. Admittedly, there are many types of Protestants. RTF is not my cup of tea. The style and content of RTF DOES however appeal to many younger Soldiers and family members that self-identify as Protestant Christian. By any reasonable calculation, it is appropriate to expend a larger percentage of resources meeting the needs of a larger percentage of the population. A 700 seat auditorium for RBB seems absolutely reasonable to me.