Fort Bragg’s Rock Beyond Belief passed quietly last Saturday. While organizers had predicted a crowd of 5,000, Richard Dawkins, the main draw of the event whose “sell out” crowds were the justification for the attendance forecast, ultimately spoke to only “a couple hundred” spectators. Photos of the event show Aiden, the musical act originally billed as Dawkins’ lead-in, playing to only a few dozen who had stuck out the day. It also appeared the military base was hosting a largely civilian crowd.
Rain early in the day may have affected attendance, much as the heat affected the Christian Rock the Fort the atheist event was meant to protest. Rock the Fort reportedly drew 3,000 to 4,000 of the forecast 10,000 (and the atheists had been quick to mock the attendance numbers of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association event).
Interestingly, Col Sicinski was on site of the event and indicated the event wasn’t the controversy it may have been made out to be: Read more
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. Read more
In a rare display of gratitude toward the Army, the organizers of “Rock Beyond Belief” called on their supporters to “thank” Fort Bragg garrison commander Col Stephen Sicinski.
Unfortunately, they still managed to insult him in the same paragraph.
Rock Beyond Belief’s earliest attempts were not taken seriously by Fort Bragg, as visitors may remember.
However, the situation has changed drastically in the months since our first approach fell through. Fort Bragg’s Garrison Commander, Colonel Sicinski has made the right call, and has now approved our event with the full government support that was promised.
The person who was responsible for seeing they “were not taken seriously” — in the words of RBB — was, of course, Col Sicinski. Still, Col Sicinski maintained the high ground and continued to say he was supportive of the atheists’ efforts — if only Read more
Not everyone can be right all the time, but when it comes to journalists, you think they’d at least try.
Reprinted at the Huffington Post, Religion News Service writer Kimberly Winston wrote on the recently approved “Rock Beyond Belief” to occur at Fort Bragg next spring. Her article reads like a press release, not a news report. Explaining the background of “Rock Beyond Belief,” she says
[Rock the Fort], staged by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, received more than $50,000 in financial support from the base, according to records obtained by local atheists through the Freedom of Information Act.
As the Army already pointed out, that’s a mischaracterization of the “records obtained.”
Winston then makes a statement that is known to be categorically untrue: Read more
The New York Times has an interesting article titled “Atheists Seek Chaplain Role in the Military.”
Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.
The ironic part is atheists have previously implied Chaplains’ “secular” roles are better filled by people such as psychologists and behavioral health experts — leaving Chaplains to purely “religious” endeavors.
The atheists apparently want an advocate for their organized beliefs, which just sounds strange to say. But Jason Torpy of the MAAF says exactly that: Read more
Despite Fort Bragg bearing a brunt of repeated criticisms over its handling of the atheist “Rock Beyond Belief” — including being painted as liars, predators and bigots — the US Army command has maintained the high ground. Even as it was accused of unConstitutional conduct, its Garrison commander, Col Stephen Sicinski, continued to say he supported the right of the atheists to hold their event, should the event-holders decide to un-cancel it (as they are hinting, while still highlighting the cancellation).
In a related vein, a recent news article notes the Fort Bragg atheists’ attempt to form a “distinct faith group” under the Army’s fairly unique recognition system. The Army has been helping them along the way, in more ways than one: Read more
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 Read more
Apparently, Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation thinks atheists need special government support to be considered “equal” with Christians.
The media has had a chance to digest the accusations the US Army post at Fort Bragg discriminated against atheists in their treatment of “Rock Beyond Belief,” and apparently interviewed those involved.
Doesn’t look good for Weinstein and his MRFF crowd.
“I think it all boils down to money,” [Col Stephen] Sicinski said Read more