Thanks to an anti-atheist plan that backfired big time, the speakers and performers at the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief festival at Fort Bragg on March 31 will be able to be openly critical of religion with no worries of retribution for breaking the military’s rules.
My friend and Rock Beyond Belief organizer SGT Justin Griffith has just posted the full story on his blog, but, being an active duty Army NCO, Justin can’t name the Air Force officer responsible for this good news. BUT I CAN! It was Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, a.k.a. the Christian Fighter Pilot.
As I wrote in the first of my two previous posts about Major Dowty’s crusade to cause trouble for Rock Beyond Belief: What Major Dowty did as part of his quest to cause problems for Rock Beyond Belief was to write several posts about Aiden on his Christian Fighter Pilot blog, selectively highlighting and misrepresenting the lyrics of one of their songs. These posts were read by Dowty’s new man crush, Todd Starnes of FOX News. Starnes, who was already in the habit of lying about and misrepresenting MRFF, jumped on Major Dowty’s anti-Aiden, anti-Rock Beyond Belief bandwagon (if you can call a lone anti-atheist, religious fanatic blogger a bandwagon), writing an article titled “Church-Burning Video Used to Promote Atheist Event at Ft. Bragg,” in which he linked to one of Major Dowty’s posts.
In my second post about Dowty’s crusade, I showed that if the speakers at Rock Beyond Belief were to be critical of religion, they would no more be in violation of the military’s rules than a speaker at Fort Bragg’s Billy Graham Rock the Fort event was.
When I wrote that second post, I was already aware that Justin had successfully negotiated with Fort Bragg’s leadership and gotten in writing that the speakers and performers at Rock Beyond Belief could, in fact, be critical of “organized religion or its practitioners,” but this had not been made public yet.
So, why are we thanking Major Dowty? Well, because it was his blog post about his “concern” over the lyrics of a Rock Beyond Belief performer being picked up by FOX News that caused Fort Bragg officials to scrutinize the Rock Beyond Belief lineup and attempt to require additional promises from the performers and speakers that they would not be critical of religion.
But Justin stood his ground, as he always does, and got it in writing that the speakers and performers at Rock Beyond Belief can be critical of religion (just like the speakers at similar religious events are, by the very nature of the promotion of their beliefs, critical of non-religion or what they deem to be “false” religions).
The full story and documents can be found on Justin’s blog, but here’s the paragraph giving Rock Beyond Belief’s speakers and performers undisputed permission to speak freely about their views:
“I recognize and understand that the Main Post Parade Field will be a limited public forum for the duration of the festival and appreciate that the language of the original draft may have concerned you, especially with regards to information that may be offensive to others’ religion. I want to assure you that Fort Bragg will not discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint. Stated another way, I understand and respect that there will be ample discussion about atheism and/or humanism during the festival and that the speakers may criticize organized religion or its practitioners…”
- Colonel Stephen J. Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander
So, I’d again like to express my most sincere thanks to Air Force Major Jonathan C. Dowty, without whose diligent and obsessive attempts to thwart Rock Beyond Belief this declaration granting atheists their right to free speech would not have been possible. Far from his goal of restraining Rock Beyond Belief, Major Dowty has made it possible for the event’s speakers and performers to be even less restrained than they were going to be!
So, in appreciation of the efforts of Major Dowty, here’s a little song honoring fighter pilots everywhere: