FFRF member, Mexican Fiesta settle civil rights dispute

Mexican Fiesta will no longer give discounts for attending Catholic Mass per the terms of a settlement with Richard Halasz, a Freedom From Religion Foundation member from Milwaukee.

Mexican Fiesta, an annual festival held each summer in Milwaukee on the Summerfest grounds, had advertised a discount for attending a Catholic Mass that was held on the festival grounds prior to the opening of the festival. The regular rate at the gate was $13 but Mass attendees were charged only $5. FFRF first objected to the discriminatory discount on August 14, 2012, informing festival organizers that it was a violation of Wisconsin’s public accommodations law to charge attendees of Mass a lower rate. On August 21, FFRF advised festival organizers that it would file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division if the festival went forward with the discount.

Halasz, an atheist, attended Mexican Fiesta on August 26, 2012, and was not able to obtain the discount that Mass attendees received. FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott filed a complaint with the state’s Equal Rights Division for violating Wis. Stat. 106.52(3)(a)(2), which prohibits places of public accommodation from providing preferential treatment on the basis of creed.

The settlement agreement provides that “future Mexican Fiesta promotions will not be timed to coincide with times of entry or exit of the annual Mass.” Mexican Fiesta issued an apology to Halasz for his experience at last year’s festival and issued an $8 refund. Halasz agreed to withdraw his complaint and he and FFRF agreed to waive the recovery of any attorneys’ 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!”

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.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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