AU, ACLU File FOIA over Rock the Fort, Rock Beyond Belief

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a Freedom of Information Act request over recent concerts at Fort Bragg.  (More accurately, they skipped the FOIA office everybody else has to use and sent a letter directly to the Secretary of the Army.)

Interestingly, the letter presents a schizophrenic perspective.  On one hand, they say Fort Bragg’s interaction with Rock the Fort was “unconstitutional.”

we believe that the actions of [Chaplain (Col) David] Hillis and the Department of the Army, in coordinating, planning and supporting last year’s Rock the Fort concert, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On the other, they demand to know if Rock Beyond Belief is truly being treated “equally” with Rock the Fort.  Equally unconstitutionally?

The letter also makes some outlandish claims about religion in the military:

Religious endorsement is also forbidden in the statements of government officials, such as those found in Colonel Hillis’s letter, referenced above, as well as in the countless emails obtained through our public records request.

Um, no.  The letter to which the group is referring was from a Christian military Chaplain, to local Christian leaders, discussing a Christian event sponsored by the military Christian congregations.

The ACLU and AU may be shocked to learn an Islamic military Chaplain can endorse Islam; a Jewish military Chaplain can endorse Judaism; in fact, any Chaplain is free to endorse his own faith and the faith of his congregation.  In addition, with some discretion, any military member can “endorse” a particular religious view on “countless emails.”

Just as President Obama, the US military Commander in Chief, can express his hope in his Christian faith and encouragement to others of like mind, so, too, can his subordinates — even on “official” systems, consistent with governing regulations.

To date, there has been no evidence provided to support the accusation the military interaction with Rock the Fort was “unConstitutional” any more than Chaplains themselves are unConstitutional.  That hasn’t stopped people from accusing Fort Bragg of illicit conduct — even Rock Beyond Belief supporters.

Despite efforts by Fort Bragg to get the accurate story out, misinformation continues to be forwarded by those who likely know better.  Speaking of Fort Bragg and the RBB event, Jason Torpy of the MAAF recently claimed

Fort Bragg leaders blocked the planned April date.

Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  But the meme that atheists and Rock Beyond Belief are somehow “victims” of the military-Christian complex is a far more compelling story line than is the truth.  In fact, public interest in RBB has nearly doubled since it was “canceled,” meaning its planned September date may actually be able to justify a larger crowd estimate and potentially even garner the vaunted parade field.

Of course, there’s still that issue of funding, but there’s an easy solution:  Give exactly the same support.  Have the Fort Bragg Christian congregations take a special collection to support Rock Beyond Belief.  Then the atheist event — which currently claims it can’t generate enough funds from atheists to put itself on — can be funded instead by the Christian offering plate, just like RtF.