Atheist Rock Beyond Belief Books its own Franklin Grahams

Last week’s speculation that the atheist Rock Beyond Belief would likely face more struggles against US Army restrictions inspired an amazing onslaught of vitriol from the MRFF and its supporters.  That the publicity-hungry event scheduled for the end of March might have another brouhaha in its future seemed to strike a chord.

The MRFF’s Chris Rodda didn’t mince words [formatting original]:


Strong words for something she supposedly considered so trivial. 

It is possible Rodda really is as ignorant as she’s implying, despite the fact her role as Michael Weinstein’s research assistant should have informed her of what problems may yet be experienced by Rock Beyond Belief.

Last year Rock Beyond Belief organizers obtained copies of documents from Rock the Fort through the Freedom of Information Act.  Though the information has always been in public view, is currently the only site to highlight this fact from the Rock the Fort After Action Report:

“The bands and speakers stayed within the parameters that we gave them as directed by LTG Helmick, “in other words keep it low key…share encouraging music and a gospel message with no statements that are critical of other religions.” [emphasis added]

The three-star General at Fort Bragg directed the “bands and speakers” to stay “within certain parameters,” which included “no statements critical of other religions.”

Reached for comment, Fort Bragg had this response:

The sponsors of Rock Beyond Belief are undertaking this event as a private organization and will be held to the same standards as all private organization events on the installation.

Like Rock the Fort, then, Rock Beyond Belief must also adhere to “certain parameters.”  Is Chris Rodda really prepared to say no “bands or speakers” in the atheist event will be “critical of other religions?”

Given their lineup and its history, that’s hard to imagine.

Richard Dawkins, Rock Beyond Belief’s headliner, is known worldwide for criticizing religions, which is apparently prohibited while he’s at Fort Bragg:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.”
― Richard Dawkins

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

“Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”
― Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins has even said calling a child a Christian because its parents are Christian is “child abuse.”

Other speakers are little different:

Without The Law of Moses would we all be wandering around like little gods, stealing, raping, and spilling blood whenever our vanity was offended?
— Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith

You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?
— Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith

Even Michael Weinstein is currently in the lineup, despite the fact he’s railed for years about conspiracy theories of evangelical Christians trying to take over America and institute a second Holocaust.

In Plan A, evangelical Christians with a smile on their face will ask you to please, please, please accept their biblical worldview of Jesus. The problem with that is, inevitably, Plan A morphs into Plan B. They stop asking so nicely, and then you have the Holocaust, the pogroms, the Inquisition…

This country is going through — right now — a transition from A to B.

(As a self-described “secular Jew who prays,” Weinstein may be the odd man out in the group of atheists.  Of course, there’s no requirement that all Rock Beyond Belief’s acts be non-believers.  Lead organizer Justin Griffith even once toyed with the idea of inviting a speaker from  That would have been interesting.)

Rock Beyond Belief’s lead-in musical act, the “glam goth” group Aiden, is more boldly anti-religion (with catchy lyrics like “Your Jesus is a f—ing c–nt”), and is a topic unto itself.

The concern from last week, then, remains:  Given their lineup and their history,

it is inconceivable how it is even possible for them to both follow military restrictions and still have their event as they’ve planned it.

If Justin Griffith and his supporters haven’t considered this question yet, then, as predicted last week, there are some serious issues for them to overcome.  Their past reactions to the Army’s treatment of their event indicate the Army’s reminder of these restrictions may not go over well.

It would be easy to argue these atheist speakers and “singers” could just tone down their vitriol toward people of faith and simply “celebrate reason” for a day.  Ignoring the fact Richard Dawkins’ celebrity status is built upon his criticism of religion, a planned change in tone actually sounds reasonable…but that’s not the position Rock Beyond Belief supporters took when the shoe was on the other foot.

Remember Franklin Graham?  The MRFF, with which Griffith is associated, has expressed pride for getting Franklin Graham “disinvited” from a military event because of what they called his prior “Islamophobia.”  Quoth Weinstein:

Franklin Graham is an Islamophobe, an anti-Muslim bigot and an international representative of the scourge of fundamentalist Christian supremacy and exceptionalism.

To Weinstein, Graham’s “anti-Islamic bigotry” was enough to disqualify him from speaking, by invitation of chaplains, at a voluntary National Day of Prayer event attended by a willing audience.

It had nothing to do with what Graham planned to say, but allegedly his prior speech about Islam.  Justin Griffith characterized this as Graham being “banned” from a US military base.

Franklin Graham was also marginally associated with Rock the Fort via the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  As a result, Griffith repeatedly harped on the fact none of his acts had been “banned” from a military base.  Griffith said:

Franklin Graham…co-sponsored (along with Fort Bragg) the Rock the Fort event. He has previously been banned from official Army events before, and it makes me wonder why his organization was given so much support. In comparison, nobody on our lineup, or on the Rock Beyond Belief staff has been disinvited from an Army event before.

Franklin Graham has already been banned from some government functions, by the Army itself. Senior Army officials pointed to controversial and offensive statements Graham made about Muslims and their religion: “Islam is a wicked and evil religion”. Statements such as these enrage the Arabic world, who are super sensitive towards any appearance of a ‘new crusade’. It is unthinkable that our government would want to associate with a man who says such things… [emphasis added]

What Griffith appears to miss is that he has booked his own “Franklin Graham” several times over.  His acts and speakers have made egregiously denigrating comments toward religion — including beliefs held by fellow soldiers at Fort Bragg.

Should not “senior Army officials” also take issue with the “controversial and offensive statements” made by the acts Griffith has booked for Rock Beyond Belief?  Is it also “unthinkable that our government would want to associate” with groups who will entertain US soldiers with songs about burning synagogues and calling Jesus a “c–nt?”

After all, the military previously said

Speaking of [Franklin] Graham’s past comments, [Army spokesman Col Tom] Collins said, “Army leadership became aware of the issue and immediately recognized it was problematic.”

He added,  “This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue.” [emphasis added]

Are the “past comments” of Rock Beyond Belief speakers and musical acts “appropriate” for a public event at Fort Bragg?

Critics have been quick to call Franklin Graham a “bigot,” including Justin Griffith’s legal advocate, Michael Weinstein.  The acts booked for Rock Beyond Belief seem to be “exhibiting intolerance and animosity toward those of differing beliefs” — and yet no one criticizes their presence in a military venue.  If they’re intellectually consistent, even Weinstein and Rock Beyond Belief atheists should concede some of their booked acts reek of anti-religious — sometimes specifically anti-Christian — bigotry. Is that not equally disqualifying?

Griffith is right:  None of his acts have been banned.  Maybe, if the US military is to treat groups equally, they should be.

According to Griffith, Graham was banned for allegedly doing what his acts have done.  In addition, the Christian event this emulates was specifically directed by the Army not to denigrate other faiths — yet that appears to be precisely what Rock Beyond Belief plans to do.  Their only “out” is if they claim the restriction on denigration was unique to Rock the Fort and is not a normal policy levied on private organizations.  If that’s the case, though, they’ll be admitting Christian events have more restrictions put on them than atheist ones.  That’s not exactly the equal treatment they claim they’re seeking.

Contrary to some cries of persecution, “non-religious” concerts, speeches, and other events occur on military facilities with regularity.  Rock Beyond Belief should be no different.  In that regard, the only drama surrounding Rock Beyond Belief is manufactured.  The Army said months ago they could hold their “festival,” and they should be able to hold their event, if they can meet the same restrictions as every other group the Army allows to use its facilities.  Of course, by at least one atheist’s characterization, some of the booked acts should probably be “banned.”

But if their acts are banned, will Rock Beyond Belief still happen on March 31st?

Therein lies the question.