Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Sacred or decoration? That’s the question surrounding a Baltimore bar. Inside the tavern are old Catholic relics that are causing the owners to receive death threats.
Gigi Barnett explains the controversy.
Ale Mary’s Tavern opened its doors seven years ago and the owner, Tom Rivers, says he never received any problems from his holy decorations until a few weeks ago.
Ale Mary’s in Fells Point may be the only place in Baltimore where customers can enjoy Resurrection Beer in a chalice, eat a Sinners & Saints Sandwich and view Catholic relics right on the bar.
“We got a little tongue and cheek thing going on but we’re not doing exorcisms. We’re not doing anything crazy,” Rivers said.
That’s what Rivers has been trying to tell a group of pub protesters who launched a Facebook page a few weeks ago blasting the tavern. They want Rivers to return the relics to the church.
“These aren’t holy items. I didn’t run down to St. Sebastian’s and steal a chalice off of the altar,” he said.
In fact, Rivers, who is Catholic, says much of what’s inside the pub — the chalice, the crucifixes, even the nun statues– were all given to him by customers.
But now some of the recent e-mails are becoming violent and threatening his business. One of them– a Biblical reference — says: “Stay awake. You know not the time or day.”
“These are empty threats. You’re really going to come here from Minnesota or Florida to get into my face over petty stuff?” Rivers said. “I’m not shoving my religion in anybody’s face. But apparently it’s OK to shove it in mine.”
Now, a counter-Facebook page supporting Ale Mary’s has sprung up. It’s called “500,000 for Freedom of Speech and Ale Mary’s.”
Those against Ale Mary’s Tavern are planning a rally in front of the business on Saturday. Bar owners say they’re fine with the protest as long as it doesn’t block customers.
A spokesperson for the Baltimore archdiocese says they have received several phone calls about the Ale Mary’s controversy, and say many old relics undergo a ritual making them suitable for daily use.