The bar’s name is a play on the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer of Catholics, and the interior decorations take that theme even further. There are pictures of nun, a draft list posted on a hymn board, a bar decoration made from a communion plate, and chalices. Sacred items to one religion, but a unique bar decor for this small pub.
The bar has been open for seven years, has a dedicated crowd of people, and owners Tom and Mary Rivers who are personable and friendly.
This is where this story should end. But thanks to the rise of social media, this small bar has become the target of protests and boycotts over its religious items and name. How the delayed sense of offense started, no one is sure, but recently a Facebook group called “500,000 Against Ale Mary’s” started to attack the bar over its use of sacred objects.
From the Facebook page, “This group has been formed to protest, and make known, the deeply offensive and blasphemous use of sacred objects used in the Catholic Church in Her most profound rituals and liturgies by the bar Ale Mary located in
The group goes on, “The owners and patrons of the bar, many of them professing Catholics, are not concerned about the deeply disrespectful ambiance of this place. It is no exaggeration to say that such use of these sacred objects is hostile to the Catholic Faith. In any other circumstance, no one would have thought about taking sacred furnishings, objects or writings and using them for profane purposes, decorations, and their intended purpose mocked.”
The group has just under 1,100 members. However, what is most troubling is that a quick look at their members show that very few come from
On a recent visit to the bar, the place was packed with patrons drinking local beers and eating such dishes as “Father Luies Grilled Wings” and “Father Tom’s Fried Ice Cream Sundae.” When asked about the controversy, owner Tom Rivers could only shake his head. “We have been here seven years, and only had one complaint.” The recent protest seemed puzzling to him. He has saved emails correspondence and forum posts where people have threatened him, his family, and his business.
“Don’t go to sleep. You never know when.” One email simply stated. Mr. River just shook his head at the email.
What religious items have the protestors in such a furor? Items include a monstrance behind the bar, chalices used in a ‘Chalice Club’ promotion, holy water font used as a simple candy dish. All items were donated by customers. There is no denying that these items hold powerful symbolism to Catholics, and inside the Church setting are powerful reminders of the tenet of the Catholic Faith. But in a bar setting, they are decor. They are not used in rituals to blaspheme the church. Mock? Most certainly.
The protestors want the items returned to the church. They have organized protests outside the bar, and even suggested doing an exorcism on the sidewalk outside the bar. However, a recent protest showed just how much real muscle a social media group with members outside the city have - namely, none. Only five protestors showed up. Conversely, bar patrons who knew about the protest packed the bar in a show of support.
Ale Mary’s is becoming a
Baltimore based, Amy Phillips is a columnist, blogger, public speaker, twitter addict and all around nerd.
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Amy Phillips is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Amy at her Accidental Musings blog.
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