I fully intended to speak at Rock Beyond Belief

Duh, right? You’d think that would be obvious because I had it listed on my speaking schedule, blogged about it four different times, and even turned down other speaking events that conflicted with it.

But Fort Bragg doesn’t believe me, or any of the speakers. They’re telling reporters it’s okay that they refused to fund the event, because no one really intended to come. No one filed a “Statement of Intent” – a document that wasn’t required of the evangelical Christian Rock the Fort event, nor was it ever mentioned to organizer Justin Griffith until after the fact.

Richard Dawkins and other speakers have now openly given their “Statement of Intent,” so consider this mine. I was one of the first speakers approached to participate in Rock Beyond Belief, along with Hemant Mehta. I agreed wholeheartedly, because the separation of church and state is supremely important to me, and I wanted to help respond to that evangelical festival in any way I could. As I saw more and more speakers and performers added to the schedule, my excitement grew. I couldn’t wait for April 2nd! I was doing this without honorarium even though grad students aren’t exactly made of money, and I would miss at least a day of work for travel.

I fully intended to speak. But now I can’t, because Fort Bragg is apparently run by a bunch of hypocrites.

If you want to respond to the shameful action Fort Bragg is taking, at least sign the petition here. That link also lists contact information if you want to express your outrage, and specific instructions for what you can do if you’re part of the military and don’t want to face potential consequences.


  1. says

    I fully intended to be there. It was one of the few opportunities this SW Virginian would have to hear you and Richard Dawkins in person (though I have had the pleasure of meeting Hemant).

  2. says

    As a GI in the 60s, atheist was not an option for dog tags, I went with no preference, a friend went with Zoroastrian. I did not go to West Point as I would have dis-obeyed a direct order on the first Sunday there and figured it wasn’t worth the hassle.

  3. J. Mark says

    It’s actually scary how much we think alike (you being a 20 something brainiac, and me an aging “hippie”??) …..must be the Hoosier connection….. Anyway Jen, you have my 100 % support….our military is becoming way too Christian…We need total separation of church & state…

  4. the_Siliconopolitan says

    Of course, now that you’ve publicly given your statement of intent, it’s obvious that your intent is to evangelise. Which is illegal on federal premises.

  5. Wvsasha says

    I wr0te to the Powers That Be a couple of weeks ago regarding this. I am a military family member (husband, father and brother – all have been deployed multiple times…even a couple of times through Fort Bragg) and wanted to lend my support to RBB. Here is the response I got just a couple of days ago:Classification: UNCLASSIFIEDCaveats: FOUOAll, Thank you for your recent message regarding the Rock BeyondBelief event that was scheduled to take place early next month. Inrecent days, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Sicinski, hadsent comments to the Rock Beyond Belief website(http://rockbeyondbelief.com/) and the Secular Coalition for America(http://www.secular.org) in an effort to clarify Fort Bragg’s position and rolein the Rock Beyond Belief situation. As of the transmission of thismessage, the comments from Col. Sicinksi have not been posted to therespective websites. In order to clarify the facts as we at Fort Bragg know them tobe, I have pasted Col. Sicinski’s communication below. Again, thank you for your continuing support of our men andwomen in uniform, and their Families.Best regards,BenBenjamin AbelFort Bragg Public Affairs Officehttp://www.bragg.army.milhttp://www.facebook.com/fortbraggncMessage from Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg Garrison Commander:Thank you for your feedback on the Rock Beyond Belief event at FortBragg. We value your feedback as we continue to strive to improve ourrelationships with all Americans whom we serve. I’d like to provide yousome information to help clarify some of the inaccuracies reported aboutthe Rock Beyond Belief event.I approved the Rock Beyond Belief event. However, the event organizercancelled the event. There were some misunderstandings on the part ofthe organizer during the planning process which unfortunately continueto be propagated in the news media. Fort Bragg has stood by its promiseto “provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similarnon-Federal entities that address the needs of the Soldiers on thisInstallation.” Fort Bragg supports diversity–racial, ethnic, gender,religious, ability–and has been forthright in providing information tothe event organizer and the public.The event organizer requested the use of the Main Post Parade Field.Our analysis of the programmed speakers and bands indicated that theevent did not meet our minimum threshold of 5,000 Soldiers and familymembers in order to host the event on the Main Post Parade Field. Iapproved the use of a theater on post which adequately supported theanticipated Soldier and Family member attendance at the event. Theevent organizer chose to cancel, not Fort Bragg.Fort Bragg’s Morale Welfare and Recreation sponsors and funds only oneto two events per year such as our Independence Day celebration whichdraws over 30,000 participants. Private organizations may request toconduct events that support Soldiers and family members on Fort Bragg attheir own expense, with the installation providing only the location andrequired security, if approved. Funding to cover the production costsof private organization-sponsored events on Fort Bragg is provided bythe event organizer.Fort Bragg will consider any private organization hosted event thatbenefits the military community at Fort Bragg. Venue decisions forproposed events will be based on an analysis of anticipated attendanceand the type of entertainment. I approved the Rock Beyond Belief eventfor April 2nd at a post theater based on anticipated attendance and thetype of event. However, the event organizer chose to cancel the event.I value your input and support of the Soldiers and Families assigned toFort Bragg. Further input should be directed to the following e-mailaddress: braggpao@conus.army.mil. An excerpt from my letter to the RockBeyond Belief event organizer is posted below.Thank you.Col. Stephen Sicinski”I have reviewed your request for installation support of the April 2,2011 “Rock Beyond Belief” event. I have approved the event beingconducted as requested, with the exception of the venue. As yourplanned program consists primarily of speakers and musical performers(who are not chart-makers), the venue for the event will be the MainPost Theater or the York Theater. You should coordinate with theinstallation action officer listed below to schedule visits to thefacilities to help you decide where you would like to hold your event.”Classification: UNCLASSIFIEDCaveats: FOUO

  6. Zyphane says

    That is a most interesting reply. I like how it constantly repeats the phrase “Theevent organizer chose to cancel, not Fort Bragg.”I mean, nobody was under the impression that Fort Bragg cancelled the event, right? Isn’t the issue that Fort Bragg said it would provide support similar to that provided to Rock the Fort, which received funding from Fort Bragg? And then, you know, didn’t provide funding?

  7. says

    I have actually seen this reply, since Justin *did* share it. It’s still ridiculous though… Richard Dawkins alone usually draws more than 5,000 people, and all of the performers are more popular than any of the Christian musicians that were brought in for the other event.

  8. Annie says

    I’ve read those replies already too… must have been on RBB’s website. This whole thing is so ridiculous it’s hard to believe. Does Sicinski really think people are going to fall for his response? If they only sponsor two events a year, give the atheists a turn this year. Wonder if there will be another evangelical event come fall?

  9. says

    Separation of church and state only exists when it’s convenient for the government. Proof is everywhere, but no more than when you buy alcohol or tobacco…why? Because those have a “sin” tax on them. That’s a complete contradiction right there, and more than enough proof that separation of church and state is a convenient excuse for the government to get what they want, when they want. If religion being involved becomes a problem, they bring it up…but if it’s going to help them? They pretend there’s no such thing. They uphold the finest double-standards in our government.

  10. Caitlin S says

    As a practicing Episcopalian, and the fiancee of a KIA soldier who was stationed at Fort Bragg, I find the cancellation offensive and appalling! Although I choose to believe in God, I fully support others’ rights to do the opposite, and was going to attend this event to show my support. I live in East Tennessee, so it isn’t too far away, and I’m very disappointed by the actions of those who have power at Fort Bragg. I signed the petition and hope you win the fight to hold this event (eventually). I look forward to hearing you speak in the future!

  11. jimmyboy99 says

    Why not just go ahead and have the event just outside Fort Bragg? Same speakers, probably changed agenda now – targeting the hypocrisy and lies of the Xians I suppose.Would get a big media draw.

  12. says

    I didn’t sign. As a non-American, I don’t feel it appropriate to artificially enhance the signing of a petition of American tax payers.I did, however, give some money to the MFF for legal action in this case.

Leave a Reply