WASHINGTON — Three
church-state activist groups criticized the Army for allowing an evangelical
concert at North Carolina’s Fort
Bragg but not making similar
provisions for a “Rock Beyond Belief” concert for nonbelievers.
The three groups — Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the
American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of North
Carolina — on July 5 complained to the Secretary
of the Army about events that appear to give “selective benefits” to religious
Fort Bragg hosted a Christian-themed “Rock the Fort” concert last September
that was sponsored by the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association, and was touted as “evangelistic in nature,” according
to the three groups.
The groups alleged that Fort Bragg
chaplains promoted the event, which received “$50,000 in financial support, and
$30,000 in logistical and security support” from the Army. Such actions “cannot
be squared with (Army) regulations, much less with the First Amendment,” the
The letter also complained that a recent attempt to hold an atheist-themed “Rock
Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg
was not granted the same venue or the same level of financial support.
Additionally, performers — who included atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins
— were also asked to provide “statements of intent.” The event was ultimately
canceled after being “crippled … with last-minute restrictions” according to
the concert website.
A news release from Americans United urged the Army to “refrain from supporting
any event that promotes religion,” and to support the atheist event “to the
extent that this can be done consistently with the Constitution.”
An Army spokesman said he would look into the groups’ letter but could not