Two Christian concerts held last year at army bases in Virginia and North Carolina have spurred local investigations into whether the military is pushing a Christian agenda.
A group of soldiers at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va., lodged complaints following a BarlowGirl Christian rock concert last May, according to the Daily Press.
While attendance at the show was voluntary, soldiers who opted out of the concert were mistakenly confined to their barracks, an Army spokesman told the paper.
“This was nothing intentional on anybody’s part,” Harvey Perritt said, explaining that a sergeant “misunderstood what his commander had told him to do,” and erred in confining soldiers to their barracks during the show.
The sergeant reportedly apologized the next day and an investigation found there was no malicious intent.
Perritt added that such performances will continue as the Army sees worth in “spiritual fitness concerts.”
“We teach soldiers values,” he said. “This is extra-curricular in nature and voluntary in nature, but it’s seen as a valuable addition.”
Meanwhile, at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., Rock Beyond Belief, an atheist concert, was recently canceled when a colonel refused to allow the event to take place on the base’s main field April 2.
Rock Beyond Belief was organized in part as a response to Rock the Fort, a concert sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in September.
When some soldiers protested over Rock the Fort, a lieutenant wrote in response that Fort Bragg would be “willing to provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar nonfederal entities that address the need of the soldiers on this installation,” according to documents obtained by the Fayetteville Observer.
But when it came time to book the show, Col. Stephen Sicinski told organizer Sgt. Justin Griffith that the concert would need to draw a crowd of 5,000 or more to be held on the main field, the paper said.
A market analysis had determined Rock Beyond Belief would only draw hundreds and the cost to set up a stage, speakers, lighting and bathrooms would top $30,000.
Griffith alleges that government money was spent on Rock the Fort and wants a similar amount of for his show. Sicinski claims the money came from tithes given by Christian churchgoers on post. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine where the concert funds came from, the Observer repored.
Sicinski told the paper he’s still willing to allow Rock Beyond Belief to occur on the base’s main field, as long as Griffith can raise the funds to stage the show on his own.
“We didn’t give any money to Rock the Fort,” he said. “No appropriated dollars and no federal nonappropriated dollars went toward supporting that event. Now, we provided security, we provided the location. And that is exactly what we are willing to do for Rock Beyond Belief.”
Click here to read the Daily Press article and here for the complete Fayetteville Observer article.