Ft. Bragg Evangelical Event Draws Fire

Watchdog groups call the event a violation of the constitution.

September 25, 2010, 6:09 PM

Sept. 25, 2010 -- A concert today sponsored by the U.S. military and evangelical churches at the military base at Fort Bragg, N.C., has drawn protest from watchdog groups, who have called the event a violation of the constitution.

The "Rock the Fort" event, which is being put on by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is being criticized for targeting both military personnel and adults and children in the surrounding community for conversion to Christianity.

The event, which will feature Christian bands Hawk Nelson and God Rocks and have activities for children and adults, has welcomed not only the 45,000 people stationed at Fort Bragg, but is open to the public.

Fort Bragg's chaplain, Col. David Hillis, sent a letter to area churches inviting congregations to the event and seeking volunteers and support.

"The Billy Graham Association is coming to Fort Bragg to offer a free concert and the Christian message to all of Fort Bragg and the surrounding community," he wrote in a letter dated June 2. "Rock the Fort is evangelical in nature. ... The concert will conclude with a clear gospel message."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has issued an action alert encouraging protests at the event while attorneys for Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a letter to Army officials asking for a halt of the event.

"This marriage of religion and Government is exactly what the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was designed to forbid, and we write to ask that you take steps to stop the military's endorsement of this event," the letter, sent on Thursday, stated.

In an interview with CNN, Hillis said that attendance is not mandatory for military personnel, and that he would be willing to support a similar event if believers of a different faith would like to produce one.

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