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|AASF present SSgt Dan Rawlings, of the Military Atheists & Secular Humanists (MASH)|
|Date||Sunday January 08|
|Time||3:00 PM - 8:00 PM|
|Import this event into your personal calendar.|
Women's Building, 3543 18th (at Valencia), San Francisco,94110
Audre Lorde Room (Upstairs)
This month Atheist Advocates of SF features a talk by Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings, the founder of the Military Atheists & Secular Humanists (MASH) group at Travis Air Force Base in nearby Fairfield. Before transferring to Travis, Dan was stationed in North Carolina, where he was involved with the local MASH group at Fort Bragg. Earlier this year the group made the news when it responded to the Army sponsorship of evangelical proselytizing in a music festival sponsored by the Billy Graham Foundation. MASH demanded support for a secular festival called “Rock Beyond Belief.” At first permission was given, but only for a space much smaller than the one given to the prior event. After a successful media and political campaign, the base relented. “Rock Beyond Belief” is scheduled for March 31st, with atheist musicians and famous speakers like Richard Dawkins and Dan Barker.
When Dan arrived at Travis, he discovered considerable rank and file support for a MASH group, which he promptly formed. As the Solstice approached, the base sponsored in a prominent place a Nativity Scene with Baby Jesus and the usual characters. Another Airman at the base sent a request to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) asking for support in demanding that the base be forced to no longer blatantly support one religious dogma (Christianity) over others. Representing 122 Airmen on the base, MRFF asked that the display be moved to the Chapel area. Meanwhile Dan requested that his MASH group be allowed to add a display. They were refused, but after intense pressure from news agencies and civil rights advocacy groups, he was allowed to display the MASH sign. It read : “Have a Safe Holiday Season, from the ATHEISTS at Travis MASH.” The sign was paid for by American Atheists. It changed the way atheists are seen in the military forever.
Larry Hicok, the California State Director of American Atheists and the founder of AASF, had been in touch with Dan. When Larry was interviewed on KCBS radio a few days before December 25th in connection with an American Atheists display among religious displays in Santa Monica, he talked about the struggle at Travis. KCBS then interviewed Dan about his efforts. Earlier the SF Chronicle had an article about the event. This media pressure, combined with the work of the MRFF and Justin Griffith, the Military Director of American Atheists, helped Dan’s group win.
Please join us in hearing what it is like on the front lines fighting for atheist and humanist rights in the military.