Atheist activists held a number of noteworthy events in 2012. Among them was “Rock Beyond Belief,” a concert celebrating secularism at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The event marked the atheist movement’s first major coming together of non-believing military members and their families. Seeking to hold a second event — this time on the Camp Pendleton base in California — atheists have hit some major roadblocks along the way.
Officials on the military base have refused a request to hold a follow-up music festival on the premises. The decision, according to a letter, is based on the monies and support that would needed to ensure that such an event is possible, KPBS reports.
American Atheists (AA), the group that is helping organize the event, is not taking Camp Pendelton’s decision lightly. In fact, using a similar argument to the one that inevitably helped activists secure a date and location at Ford Bragg last year, the organization and its supporters are claiming that the base has supported Christian events in the past (here’s information on an event held in 2011). As a result, non-theists believe that they, too, deserve to have their event — called “Rock Beyond Belief 2” — hosted on the base.
Justin Griffith, an activist and military member who is the military director for American Atheists, blogged about the situation last week, claiming that atheist activists have now alleviated the problems that Camp Pendelton officials originally mentioned in their letter. Griffith writes:
We were extremely disappointed that the second ever atheist festival on a military base was recently rejected by Camp Pendleton. They continue to provide massive support to a single religious sect, the controversial Calvary Chapel and its military arm, ‘Armor of Light’ (AoL). Camp Pendleton is a large Marine Corps base near San Diego, California. The area is also home to the 1000+ churches-strong Calvary Chapel headquarters.
The Marine Corps mailed the rejection letter to American Atheists headquarters in New Jersey. Perhaps fittingly, the letter seemed so nonsensical that it had to be rescued from the garbage.
We are pleased to announce that we have now mitigated all of the concerns that Camp Pendleton cited in their rejection letter.
A copy of the letter sent from officials to American Atheists showcases the issues that apparently led military leaders to decline the event’s presence:
Despite the response, Griffith and his fellow atheists do not plan to back down. A new plan addressing concerns has been submitted and an official response is awaited from military personnel at the base.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he wrote on his blog. “We demand equal treatment, and we’re confident that Camp Pendleton will make the right call.”