Milwaukee’s Mexican Fiesta Festival Will No Longer Offer Discounts to Catholics

Last fall, I posted about an event in Milwaukee called Mexican Fiesta, a celebration that’s taken place for over 30 years and was occurring that weekend on public grounds.

The promoters of the event had said that the cost to enter was $13/person… unless you attend Mass, in which case it was only $5:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint letter with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division on behalf of member Richard Halasz who had to pay more money to come to the festival because he was an atheist.

This week, the organizers of the event settled the case with FFRF and agreed to fix the situation (PDF):

In short, there will be no more discounts for those who attend a religious service and an apology letter will be written to Mr. Halasz. He’ll also get his $8 back :)

FFRF and Halasz agree to stop further action and waive all lawyers’ fees.

Halasz shared his appreciation of FFRF, saying, “I am thankful to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for standing up for our First Amendment and civil rights!”

[FFRF attorney Patrick] Elliott added, “I’m glad to see that this could be mutually resolved and that all attendees will be treated on an equal basis this year.”

It’s a settlement in name only. FFRF clearly came out on the winning side, just as they should have.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • bethelj

    Great. Now we can all pay more. Thanks, FFRF!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      that’s right. now Catholics will pay the same as Jews, Buddhists, atheists and Jains, to enjoy some Mexican/Latin culture on public grounds which all our tax dollars support. boo hoo. /eyeroll

      • bethelj

        It’s not “privilege” to voluntarily participate in the majority culture. I wouldn’t mind going to the mass beforehand; if I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t expect the discount. That’s hardly discrimination or oppression.

        • Kengi

          What are you smoking? The very definition of privilege is the benefit gained by simply being part of the majority culture!

          • bethelj

            I’m not smoking anything. The word “privilege” has been stretched outside of all recognition. It’s not supposed to mean getting a discount for jumping through hoops people have requested you jump through. And I despise our litigious society. It’s cost us all so much in money, time, and trust.

            • DougI

              Yeah, that pesky 14th Amendment is taking our Constitutional rights away.

              • 3lemenope

                ROFL! I’m stealing that.

            • Kengi

              An event using public property, open to the public, can’t discriminate. The fact that you can’t see the inherent discrimination, despite it being explained, is a symptom of your privilege. Just because you don’t like the common current usage of the word doesn’t change it.

              And if you don’t want people to sue when their rights are infringed upon, how do you suggest people resolve such conflicts? Gunfights at high noon? Stoning in the public square?

              • bethelj

                So you think a lawsuit is the only way to handle the incredible rights infringement going down here with this guy’s $8 “overcharge?”

                Yes, I am able to comprehend what you are trying to convey with your words “discrimination” and “privilege,” I just reject your worldview out of hand as rather pathetic. Those who are “victimized” the most, are not inherently the most moral.

                • Kengi

                  The person tried to resolve the situation with dialog. That didn’t work. I asked you what options you suggest. Try suggesting a couple.

                  The civil courts are specifically designed to be a place for peaceful conflict resolution.

                  I do like your notion of rejecting the current common usage of words out of hand. It’s much easier than using logic and reason.

              • indorri

                Woah, not cool. No kafka-trapping here. We should be better than that.

                • Kengi

                  It’s not “kafka-trapping” to point out one of the symptoms of privilege. In fact, one aspect of privilege is that it is often accepted by people who are unaware of their privileged status. I’m not sure you can discuss majority privilege for very long without this aspect coming up.

                • indorri

                  It’s the very definition of kafka-trapping. Accusing someone that not seeing their privilege being a symptom of their privilege is like a Christian saying we can’t see our own wretchedness because we are wretched. It’s unfalsifiable, and meant to put someone in a position where they can’t argue back.

                  Make no mistake, bethelj is wrong, but I could put his inability to see that to many other factors: perhaps he wants to keep his privilege for example. But accusing him of his motives in such a way that his very objection of some status in and of itself “confirms” his status is not an argument in good faith, and I won’t accept freethinkers using it.

                • Kengi

                  I didn’t say it “confirmed” his privilege. I simply pointed out that lack of awareness is one symptom of having privilege to get him to step outside of that privilege for a moment. That’s why I didn’t say it “confirmed” his privilege. His privilege is obvious from nearly all of his arguments and statements. I don’t think I really needed to confirm it other than by letting him continue to babble.

                  When discussing majority privilege, lack of awareness is an important component. I’m not sure how to bring that lack of awareness into the discussion without bringing it up at all.

            • TheBlackCat13

              “The word ‘privilege’ has been stretched outside of all recognition.
              It’s not supposed to mean getting a discount for jumping through hoops
              people have requested you jump through.”

              What do you think it IS supposed to mean? You criticize our definition without providing an alternative of your own.

        • Mario Strada

          Even if it was done in a charitable spirit, as I don’t believe the organizers of that festival had any ill intentions at all, it was unfair to all those that could not participate in the mass. For instance, a Muslim could not have attended Mass as it would have been considered apostasy, which in their culture is nothing to sneeze at. Furthermore even within the Christian faith, it could have been awkward for some denominations to attend what I believe was a Catholic mass.

          This is not an instance of “Attendees of the conference” or “all those bringing in a coupon from that newspaper” get a discount. In this case in order to get the discount people would have had to participate in a function that is sectarian by nature.

          As usual, a good way to judge if this practice was acceptable or not is to do a bit of substitution.

          Imagine an ethnic fair open to all and preceded by a Muslim service where all the attendees get a substantial discount.

          How long would you think Fox News would have milked that?

          Made the function Hindu, Buddist or Pagan. Any Christian attending would have felt slighted.

          I guess there could be an exception in case the Service beforehand was billed as part of the fair and an outreach to the community from the particular faith. But that would have been all inclusive by definition.

          So yes, it is once again Christian privilege You get to set the rules and break the larger rules of society. We are supposed to shut up or you cry “religious Intolerance”.

          No one wants to prevent you from attending Mass. If anyone was, I and many of the people here, would be on the front lines with you protesting the abuse.

          But we won’t help you out when all you are seeking is to keep your perks you deny to everyone else.

          • bethelj

            This is yet another attempt to shunt Christianity out of the public sphere and only into the private spaces you deem appropriate. You don’t like us; you want to rope us off. And then you say you’re roping us off for our own good.

            Frankly I wouldn’t go to either a Muslim or a Pagan festival, but if I did I’d expect that they would play by their rules and as their guest I would have to accept those rules or not participate. Inside or outside of a public park. This is was not a mandatory event; no one was compelled to go. This whole matter is petty in the extreme; hardly freedom fighting.

            • indorri

              And as I defended you against kafka-trapping, I am also scolding you for your uncharity. We (or more truthfully and specifically, I) do not want to “rope you off”, at least not in the way you are intending to accuse us. Rejecting the use of public squares for promotion of religion is not appropriate, even if you reject that.

            • John (not McCain)

              Poor, pitiful you. Probably should stay out of public all together, dear; you’re only making a spectacle of yourself.

            • Kengi

              How is NOT banning the Catholic mass shutting Christianity out of the public sphere? Do you believe that, without the incentive of an $8 discount at a Mexican fiesta that no one will attend mass? Even if that were the case, how is that shutting Christianity out of the public sphere? The priests could still hold the mass even if no one will bother to show up without that incentive.

            • Carmelita Spats

              Who the hell is this “us”? Catholics are pagans. Catholics are not TRUE Christians. They swallow their god whole as they open wide for a mouthful of Savior every Sunday, drink “transubstantiated” blood, have a different set of 10 Commandments (no prohibition against graven images, the second commandment was removed and the ninth was split to give ten), rely on works theology, pray to idols, view Mary as “co-redeemer with Christ”, don’t read the right Bible (KJV) and they include Maccabees I and II in their biblical canon…They are as far from Our Lord Jesus Christ and as confused as a cow on Astroturf as them there funny Scientologists who believe that humans came to Earth in a spaceship piloted by talking, lava-eating, sea clams. If anything, taking Catholicism out of the public sphere makes more room for TRUE Christianity. Catholics spit in Jesus’ face every time they hold mass, yet many saved
              Christians still believe Catholics will be ascending to Heaven with us.You assume that, because the Catholics have millions of
              followers worldwide, they must believe something right. Well, let me
              tell you something: popularity means nothing. Sixty million Americans
              eat Spam but that hardly makes it good.

              • Jilly-Bean

                I really kind of want to yell at you, but it’s an, there’s something wrong on the internet moment. I know you don’t care that you’re really really wrong about Catholicism. But to any one else, This person hasn’t undertaken an non biased study of Catholicism.

        • David Starner

          So can we drop all this stuff praising the Pilgrims now? Since they were apparently being outrageous in having any objection to participating in the majority Anglican culture.

        • The Other Weirdo

          I have a better idea. Let’s say the cost is $13. Everybody gets to pay that. The exception is that anybody who has made a donation to a charitable organization in the past 5 days gets a discount dependent on the amount of donation, up to a maximum of $8. The list of charitable organizations can include pet shelters, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, donations to a hospital. It can even include religious ones(except donations made during service). Problem solved.

          • CelticWhisper

            This is a much better idea. I posted here about Irish Fest, and you reminded me that the discount was from attending a religious service AND donating a non-perishable food item to charity (both required to be eligible for the discounted admission). I think accepting proof of charitable donation should be more than enough, though I’d add in donating to disease research (unless you want to count that under “hospital”) as an option too.

    • Kengi

      Actually, the price for everyone else should go down since the Catholics will now have to pay their fair share.

      • Bob Becker

        Going to be interesting to see what festival admission charge is going to be next time. I suspect it’ll be lower than $13 a pop. We’ll see….

      • bethelj

        It’s more likely they will figure out a way to hold it elsewhere rather than go through this unpleasant hassle again.

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          It’ll have to be on private property or outside of the US.

        • Pureone

          “Dang, we need to find a way to get our beliefs into the public square and shunt everyone else out. It’s tough fighting against equal treatment.”

        • 3lemenope

          Didn’t Jesus say something about doing the right thing being hard sometimes?

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    FFRF is awesome. They stand up for atheists against the pervasive christian self-entitlements. I am happy to be an FFRF member.

  • Claude

    $8 and justice. Not bad.

  • anniewhoo

    These small victories are so important. It’s a shame we must constantly remind people that we live in a secular nation, but I am grateful to groups like the FFRF for always being at the ready to take on these cases.

  • DougI

    How long until Catholic complain about being persecuted because they aren’t being given special rights?

  • CelticWhisper

    They do (or at least did) the same thing with Irish Fest. I went in 2006 with my then-girlfriend, whom I’d just started dating. We read the pricing policy and she (a paleobiologist) quipped “Shit, I’d pay $10 solely to be able to avoid going to mass, festival be damned.” I was tickled as the last two girls I’d dated had been Catholic, and so hadn’t though much about it beyond that, but the preferential treatment really is a load of bullshit. Good on FFRF for smacking this down.

  • disgustedbyFFRF

    this is not awesome. I am not Catholic. I wouldn’t get a discount because I don’t attend the mass but I would get in at a lower price if I came early…just like if I received a discount if I bought something for Hunger Task. FFRF also fails to understand certain things about our culture. SAD…you also fail to respect this country’s freedom to believe.

  • a devoted catholic

    you are all just non believers, even in yourselves. To top it off just plain CHEAP, who can’t stand when someone catches a break. I’ll pray for you.

  • Nicole

    Other festivals in Milwaukee offer free admission on Sunday if you attend mass first. My husband and our 2 young children are no religion, but we went to mass every year just to get in for free. We just sat in the back and did whatever, we didn’t participate. Sitting through an hour of mass was worth it to save almost $40 on our admission. Now that they’ve done away with this, we can’t afford to go anymore. :(


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