Thousands donate food, skip Mass

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been hard at work for the past few years ensuring attendees at several annual festivals in Milwaukee do not need to attend Catholic Mass to receive festival admittance discounts.

Polish Festival, Irish Festival, Mexican Fiesta, Festa Italiana, and German Fest all include a worship service as part of their festival activities, and all of them used to give special discounts only to those who attended the service.

Thanks to FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott, almost all of the festivals have changed their discounts to include attendees of all faiths and no faith. Elliott is still working to change Festa Italiana’s policy so that it does not violate Wisconsin civil rights laws.

Irish Fest changed its policy late last year from giving free admission only to attendees who both attended Mass and donated a food item to the Hunger Task Force, to giving free admission to everyone who brought in food on Sunday morning prior to the start of the festival.

The outcome was win-win-win. The Hunger Task Force reported a 25% increase in food donations from the previous year. Although the festival does not release exact attendance numbers, thousands of people who were not attending Mass were observed enjoying Irish Fest Sunday morning—a clear benefit to Irish Fest itself. And, of course, everyone, no matter their religion or non-religion, received the same discount from Irish Fest.

Not only were food contributions up 25% from the 2012 festival, but this year’s contributions reportedly set an all-time record for the event. This year’s Hunger Task Force contributions beat out the previous record set in 2008 by roughly 20%.

After Irish Fest changed its policy last year, Atheist Ireland received word of the change and donated $100 to the Hunger Task Force via FFRF.

“We are glad to have created a new opportunity for non-churchgoers to enjoy Milwaukee’s summer festivals and help feed the hungry,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Who says atheists aren’t generous?

By Sarah Eucalano

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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