Mexican Fiesta has been celebrated in Milwaukee for over 30 years and it took place this past weekend on public grounds.
The cost to enter is $13/person… unless you attend Mass… in which case it’s only $5:
As you can imagine, the Freedom From Religion Foundation didn’t like the idea that Catholic attendees would get to pay less than non-Catholic ones. So they sent festival organizers a letter explaining the problem.
Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Mexican heritage or the culture or anything like that. This is all about an event on public property giving discounts to people who are religious.
So how did the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel cover the story? The paper’s headline makes it sound like FFRF has a racist agenda:
How’s that for missing the point?
At least the article mentions how the law is on FFRF’s side:
Wisconsin statute 106.52(3)(a) makes it illegal to “deny to another or charge another a higher price than the regular rate for the full and equal enjoyment of any public place of accommodation or amusement because of sex, race, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry.” The federal Civil Rights Act has similar language.
Anyway, while the festival organizers say anyone is eligible for the discount, the Catholic bishop leading the Mass doesn’t seem to get what the problem is:
“We lovingly invite the atheists to attend the Mass and experience the profound love of God,” said Milwaukee Archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying. “If we all lived in the radiant love of Christ, these fights would cease.”
[FFRF attorney Patrick] Elliott responded: “I don’t think the bishop gets it at all. We’ve never said they shouldn’t have a Mass.”
The resolution that the organizers offered was that anyone who came for the 10:30a Mass on Sunday would get a discounted ticket… but atheists wouldn’t have to participate in the Mass. They’d just have to wait around and twiddle their thumbs for 90 minutes. Only then would the gates be opened.
Hardly a good policy.
Meanwhile, the local Irish Fest also offered a discount for Mass attendees, but after FFRF called them out on it, they revised (or made clearer, as they put it) the policy so that it says anyone who gives a food donation is eligible for the cheaper rate:
Even though the Mexican Fiesta is over for this year, they should take the hint from the Irish Fest. Offer the cheaper rate for people who make a charitable donation, not for people who go to Mass and only pretend to do something good. It’s an easy problem to fix.
***Edit***: A few minor changes have been made to this piece since its original posting.