Evangelism Event At Ft. Bragg Scaled Back After AU Complaint

Officials at North Carolina's Fort Bragg dramatically scaled back a special promotional event for Southern Baptist ministers taking part in an evangelism program after Americans United expressed constitutional concerns.

Major General William G. Boykin had endorsed the Fort Bragg event, called "Super FAITH Force Multiplier," and the program was being promoted by the Rev. Bobby H. Welch, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Welch, in hyping the program to fellow Southern Baptist preachers, promised that attendees would visit Fort Bragg, spend the night at the facility, see areas that are normally off-limits to civilians and spend "informal time" with Boykin.

Welch said the purpose of the gathering was to enhance the denomination's evangelism efforts by gleaning lessons from the military.

"It is believed by you, me and others that we must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have the guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival!" wrote Welch.

But Americans United protested, pointing out that the Army has no business helping any religious group's evangelism efforts. In a letter to Army officials, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn asked that the military drop its support.

The event took place in late April, but was scaled back to the same level granted other groups of visitors. The Baptist Standard reported that participants watched a parachute demonstration, visited a wind tunnel, saw a demonstration of how hostages are freed and fired weapons used by the Green Berets.

In an e-mail message to Americans United, Major Gary M. Kolb said the group did not spend the night on the base and did not "see anything out of the ordinary that other groups see." Kolb reported that Boykin "greeted the group and welcomed them to Fort Bragg but did not stay with the group the entire time."