Army Must Cancel Evangelistic Event at Fort Bragg, Says Americans United

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Joe Conn, Rob Boston or Sandhya Bathija
202.466.3234
202.466.2587 fax
www.au.org

Army Must Cancel Evangelistic Event at Fort Bragg, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Demands Military Officials Drop ‘Rock The Fort’ Event Featuring Franklin Graham Ministry

WASHINGTON - An
evangelistic rally jointly sponsored by U.S. military personnel and evangelical
Christian churches and ministries violates the U.S. Constitution and must be
cancelled, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The
“Rock the Fort” event at Fort Bragg this weekend targets both military
personnel and adults and children in the surrounding community for conversion
to Christianity. This clearly violates the separation of church and state,
attorneys with Americans United informed Army officials in a letter
today.

“It’s
not the Army’s job to convert Americans to Christianity,” said the Rev. Barry
W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This event is totally
unacceptable and must be canceled.

“It
is particularly shocking that the military would join forces with Franklin
Graham,” Lynn continued. “Graham has expressed utter contempt for Islam,
Hinduism and other faiths. When our military joins hands with him, it sends
exactly the wrong message to the world. Our military defends a nation that
includes people of many different faiths and some who follow no faith at all.”

“Rock
the Fort” is being sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
(BGEA) in conjunction with Fort Bragg chaplains and local churches. The current
CEO of the Graham Association is Franklin Graham.

In
addition to evangelizing soldiers, officials at Fort Bragg have invited members
of the surrounding community to attend the Sept. 25 event, which will feature
Christian music and sermonizing. Special emphasis will be placed on
evangelizing children.

The
Graham Web site contains a quote from Fort Bragg Chaplain Antonio McElroy who
said, “I think we are trailblazing here in many ways. I don’t think there has
been an outside concert of this magnitude with an organization like BGEA and
our chaplains partnering with local churches to come together for one purpose –
and that is to glorify God and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The
Graham site also tells partnering churches, “The Rock the Fort outreach is
designed to channel new believers into your church, so you can encourage them
to further spiritual growth. The future of the church lies in reaching and
discipling the next generation.”

On
June 2, a letter from the chaplain’s office at Fort Bragg was issued to local
churches. The letter, signed by Chaplain David Hillis, urges clergy to take
part in the event and notes that it will take “the Christian message to all of Fort Bragg and the
surrounding community!” The letter goes on to state that the event is “evangelistic
in nature” and that it “will conclude with a clear Gospel message.”

It
is unclear how many churches received this letter, but given its evangelistic tone,
it’s unlikely it was sent to any churches outside of the evangelical Christian
tradition.

“The
Army has no business entering into a partnership with evangelical churches to
help them win new members,” Lynn said. “I urge Army officials to stop this event
and make sure no more take place. In addition, the military must end its
relationship with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”

In
today’s AU letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Americans United Legal
Director Ayesha N. Khan wrote, “The military’s participation in a religious
event designed to proselytize soldiers and the community departs of the Army’s
obligation to maintain ‘official religious neutrality.’

“’Rock
the Fort’ is not an event designed to minister to the needs of soldiers unable
to otherwise access religious services; rather, it is an event designed to
proselytize soldiers and community members into the worship of Jesus Christ,”
Khan continued. “The Army has, thus, overstepped the constitutional line by
sponsoring the event.”

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Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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