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Rock Beyond Belief: An atheist victory at Fort Bragg

The Army base at Fort Bragg, N.C., promoted its 2010 “Rock the Fort” festival as an event for soldiers of all faiths, including Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists.

So far, so good, right?

But many soldiers of minority faiths at the base felt that the overriding goal of the “Spiritual Fitness” festival was to convert them to evangelical Christianity. The event’s Web site urged participants to “Find friends and relatives who need Christ, pray for them, and invite them to the Rock the Fort event where they will hear the message of salvation. This also provides an on-going relational approach for evangelism in your church beyond Rock the Fort.”

This was hardly the first such event on an Army base. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association shopped this concept to several bases beginning in 2009. Each base that took them up on the offer outdid the last in terms of the scale and scope. By the time this tsunami of sectarian exceptionalism hit Fort Bragg, it had expanded to directly target military spouses and civilians within a 90-mile radius and was co-sponsored by the Religious Support Office.

BGEA leader Franklin Graham is the controversial son of the Rev. Billy Graham and was dropped as a speaker at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer in April 2010 for verbally attacking non-Christians. Non-evangelicals felt these Rock the Fort events were allowing his controversial message to sneak back into military bases. Worse yet, these events fueled arguments for those who believe the DOD tacitly endorses Graham’s hate speech.

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