Fort Bragg Issues Statement on Atheist Rock Beyond Belief
After Col Stephen Sicinski’s letter approving the atheist “Rock Beyond Belief” event was publicized, the Fort Bragg Garrison Commander reportedly responded directly to both RBB and the Secular Coalition for America, which has been publicly critical of his decision. His message has not been made public by those organizations, despite the fact multiple groups continue to inaccurately portray Fort Bragg’s decision. (Col Sicinski previously lamented the fact Fort Bragg was being “misrepresented.”)
Col Sicinski’s message, which reaffirms some points and contains some interesting details not previously made public, is below in its entirety (unedited):
Message from Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander:
Thank you for your feedback on the Rock Beyond Belief event at Fort Bragg. We value your feedback as we continue to strive to improve our relationships with all Americans whom we serve. I’d like to provide you some information to help clarify some of the inaccuracies reported about the Rock Beyond Belief event.
I approved the Rock Beyond Belief event. However, the event organizer cancelled the event. There were some misunderstandings on the part of the organizer during the planning process which unfortunately continue to be propagated in the news media. Fort Bragg has stood by its promise to “provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar non-Federal entities that address the needs of the Soldiers on this Installation.” Fort Bragg supports diversity–racial, ethnic, gender, religious, ability–and has been forthright in providing information to the event organizer and the public.
The event organizer requested the use of the Main Post Parade Field.
Our analysis of the programmed speakers and bands indicated that the event did not meet our minimum threshold of 5,000 Soldiers and family members in order to host the event on the Main Post Parade Field. I approved the use of a theater on post which adequately supported the anticipated Soldier and Family member attendance at the event. The event organizer chose to cancel, not Fort Bragg.
Fort Bragg’s Morale Welfare and Recreation sponsors and funds only one to two events per year such as our Independence Day celebration which draws over 30,000 participants. Private organizations may request to conduct events that support Soldiers and family members on Fort Bragg at their own expense, with the installation providing only the location and required security, if approved. Funding to cover the production costs of private organization-sponsored events on Fort Bragg is provided by the event organizer.
Fort Bragg will consider any private organization hosted event that benefits the military community at Fort Bragg. Venue decisions for proposed events will be based on an analysis of anticipated attendance and the type of entertainment. I approved the Rock Beyond Belief event for April 2nd at a post theater based on anticipated attendance and the type of event. However, the event organizer chose to cancel the event.
I value your input and support of the Soldiers and Families assigned to Fort Bragg. Further input should be directed to the following e-mail
address: firstname.lastname@example.org. An excerpt from my letter to the Rock Beyond Belief event organizer is posted below.
Col. Stephen Sicinski
“I have reviewed your request for installation support of the April 2, 2011 “Rock Beyond Belief” event. I have approved the event being conducted as requested, with the exception of the venue. As your planned program consists 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. You should coordinate with the installation action officer listed below to schedule visits to the facilities to help you decide where you would like to hold your event.”
The message seems to communicate a reasonable and equitable position and policy; again, a magnanimous statement from someone who has recently been equated with a racist and a rapist over his decision.
Some important points highlighted in the message:
- Fort Bragg approved “Rock Beyond Belief.” RBB canceled itself. [Implications Fort Bragg was responsible for the cancellation are incorrect.]
- Fort Bragg “stood by” its promise of “similar support for comparable events…that address the needs of the Soldiers on this Installation.” [The support offered to RBB was the same offered to “Rock the Fort.”]
- Use of the parade field required a “minimum threshold of 5,000 Soldiers and family members.” [Notably, not merely 5,000 people. Fort Bragg is military installation, after all, not a community convention center.]
- MWR supports only one or two events a year. [If RBB were to get MWR support, it would be getting special treatment, not equal treatment.]
On a related topic, while multiple internet stories are circulating saying the Army is being sued, no lawsuit has actually been filed. Given the information to date, it seems even barracks lawyers are reasonably convinced such a suit wouldn’t survive to see the inside of a courtroom.