Military Atheist Festival Claims Right to Denigrate Religion

In keeping with the theme that atheists cannot fellowship together without the ability to denigrate religion, organizers of the atheist “Rock Beyond Belief” to be held at Fort Bragg have secured the explicit “guarantee” of the US Army that they can criticize religion — and people who are religious.

According to their announcement, Garrison Commander Col Stephen Sicinski has said he respects

that the speakers may criticize organized religion or its practitioners…

Because this event is now “cleared” to criticize religion, while the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s Rock the Fort was not, the MRFF’s Chris Rodda claims this is a coup.

She doesn’t realize the joke is on her. 

Fort Bragg took the recent public attention of RBB’s performers seriously and reviewed the acts. It appears Col Sicinski attempted to give Justin Griffith the same guidance he gave the Fort Bragg chaplains regarding the Christian event: the performers were allowed to “make no statements critical of other religions.”

Rather than accept this “equal treatment” (which an RBB rep previously said they would follow), Griffith apparently refused. (Ironically, for weeks Chris Rodda has been incredulous at implications RBB performers would be unable to perform without criticizing religion. Now it seems they can’t…) In an effort that almost certainly included his legal representation, Griffith went back and forth with Col Sicinski, finally arriving at the above quote.

(For the record, without being specific Col Sicinski said some of the bands’ songs were “filled with hatred” and were inappropriate for the event. He also said, without being specific, he will terminate any performer who undermines good order and discipline or criticizes the Army.)

Contrary to Rodda’s tortured machinations, if the military is going to treat atheism as a religion (another debate in itself), this is precisely the correct course of action. Every religion should be able to freely express its tenets in gatherings intended to be a fellowship of adherents. That’s the heart of religious freedom.

So why, in the nearly two years since, have Griffith and his associates failed to defend the performers at Rock the Fort, who, by the atheists’ logic, were unconstitutionally restricted in their religious exercise and free speech? (In fact, while they’re claiming constitutional protection for their own event, they claimed Rock the Fort violated the Constitution.)

The answer is simple: Michael Weinstein.

Back when “Rock Beyond Belief” was still the “Fort Bragg Freedom Festival,” Justin Griffith made adamant claims that atheists only wanted “equal treatment.” Then-SPC Griffith was clear this was to be a positive event [emphasis added]:

I’d like to say thank you for the honest appraisal of our website, JD. Our conversation was meaningful and respectful, and I was very pleased with the outcome. We knew that we were going to ‘agree to disagree’ about a few things, but apart from that, I think we agreed on the important parts…

We are not holding an anti-religious event. We are not holding an anti-theist, or anti-Christian event either. We are simply putting on a day of secular entertainment…We are not trying to say that our secular way is the only way / right way.

We are celebrating in a way that we wish that the Rock the Fort organizers had chosen to do so…We are taking the high road.

What happened to the “high road?” Not long after Griffith posted that comment to this site, he met Michael Weinstein.

Michael Weinstein (who is also an RBB speaker) is the sole paid officer of his self-founded “charity” which he says fights for religious freedom. He has championed the cause of the atheists, even threatening to sue on their behalf — so why has he never criticized Fort Bragg’s restriction of the “religious freedom” of Christians at “Rock the Fort?”

This episode is only the most recent clear-cut demonstration of the farce of Michael Weinstein’s claim he fights for “religious freedom.” He fights, no doubt — but it is in the name of a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with religious freedom in the US military.

When the speech of Christians exercising their faith was restricted, Michael Weinstein and his “religious freedom” foundation said nothing. When the speech of atheists was to be treated the same as the Christians, well, you see what happened.

So while Chris Rodda is giddy over the atheists’ freedom to do what Christians could not, the incident actually makes her MRFF, and Michael Weinstein, out to be the fools.