The Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter Sept. 21 to the commanding general at Fort Bragg, N.C., vigorously protesting the upcoming "Fort Bragg Rock the Fort" soul-winning event scheduled take over its Main Post Parade Field tomorrow, Sat., Sept. 25.
The Foundation's letter also protested the cosponsorship of the event by the Garrison Religious Support Office. The avowed purpose of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's "Rock the Fort" is to bring "the Christian message to all of Fort Bragg and the surrounding community." While directed at military personnel, community members are invited and up to 10,000 people are expected.
"Fort Bragg is not an appropriate venue to host a proselytizing, evangelical festival," the Foundation wrote. "'Fort Bragg Rock the Fort' places the Army's imprimatur on a strictly evangelical Christian message. Fort Bragg, where our brave Army servicemen and women train and live, should not be used as a platform for outside sectarian religious organizations."
The Foundation objected to the use of Fort Bragg facilities and personnel for the purpose of converting people of other faiths and nonbelievers to evangelical Christianity. The Foundation pointed out that Department of Defense policies forbid any preferential treatment of religion.
Lt. General Frank G. Helmick responded lamely in a letter faxed on Sept. 22 to FFRF that no one on base would be pressured to attend, but that "the event was of interest and benefit to the community or DoD."
"It is a well settled issue of Constitutional Law that it is permissible for the military to have a Chaplain's Corps and for that corps to offer events of a religious nature to Soldiers on Installations such as Fort Bragg," he added.
Responded Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor: "Lt. Gen. Helmick has ignored an essential problem, which, as we said in our letter, is the fact that military chaplains are employed to accommodate the religious practices of service members, not to impose religious practices on the public at large and servicemen and women at large."
She called the event "out-of-control evangelism totally entangled with a military base."
Gaylor pointed out that "Rock the Fort" is explicitly aimed at conversion to "reach those who need Jesus Christ," at aiding churches, and at proselytizing small children ("teach kids important lessons from the Bible in a fun way").
"This is egregious entanglement with untold taxpayer costs," Gaylor added. Thousands of outside vehicles will undergo a required security search at several access points. The base must monitor up to 10,000 visitors who must present an ID card and vehicle registration to gain admittance.
The Foundation, the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) and a watchdog for state/church separation, sent the letter on behalf of complainants who are service members at Fort Bragg as well as its 15,500 members.
ACTION ALERT! HELP COMPLAIN!
Please send a short email or phone firmly but politely registering your request that Fort Bragg cancel "Rock the Fort" (feel free to copy and paste the statement below):
Cancel "Rock the Fort." It is an unconstitutional misuse of military personnel and property. Fort Bragg should not be hosting a Christian evangelical event aimed at bringing "the Christian message to all of Fort Bragg and the surrounding community." Military chaplains should not be cosponsoring a soul-winning event with the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick
XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg
2175 Reilly Road, Stop A
Fort Bragg NC 28310
General Info Number 910-396-0011