Days after Baltimore found out that a Catholic group was decrying a Fells Point church-themed bar as "blasphemous," a counter group has sprung up to defend Ale Mary's.
A Facebook group called "500,000 Supporting Free Speech & Ale Mary's" has just over 100 members. Its name is a play on the first group, "500,000 Against Ale Mary's Abuse of the Sacred and the Sublime," which formed in protest of the way Ale Mary's is decorated.
The Ale Mary's protesters have a long list of gripes -- mainly all of the former church objects the bar uses for its kitschy theme.
"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," organizers say on Facebook. "In this establishment Chalices that contain the precious blood of Christ are being used as common drinking cups, and a Monstrance that is to be used to display the Sacred body of Christ for adoration is being used as a kitch decoration sitting on a bar where patrons while their time over drinks. A holy water font is also used as a simple candy dish."
Protesters want Ale Mary's to lose the church artifacts. To make it happen, they're considering everything from an exorcism on the sidewalk outside the bar to covertly placing "Miraculous Medals" in corners of the establishment to sprinkling holy water onto the site.
They have also planned a demonstration at the bar for 2 p.m. Saturday.
"Bring rain gear and your Rosary," they say. "We will meet at 2 pm in front of the bar and process around the block in reparation for the blasphemy."
Genevieve Frost, a Baltimore temp worker who's organized Facebook protest and the rosary demonstration, says she won't let up until Ale Mary's gives up what she considers "sacred objects."
"We're not asking for anything absurd," she told The Sun Wednesday. "We're just asking that they give those articles back from the church."
Frost's group is up to about 850 members -- considerably more than last week when they had about a quarter of that. (Some of those new members are, to be fair, people -- even reporters -- who signed up just to see what was going on.)
Ale Mary's defenders have set up their own event for 6 p.m. next Thursday night (April 19) where people can express their support for Ale Mary's by going there and, well, drinking.
Kate Cary, a 35-year-old former Catholic school teacher, formed the Ale Mary's defense group after being repelled by Frost's group.
A Catholic, she had been initially sympathetic to the protest, but got quickly turned off by the negative tone of the their site.
"Catholicism isn't about intolerance," Cary says. "When they started spewing hate speech in the name of my religion that really upset."
Last week, Tom and Mary Rivers, who opened Ale Mary's about seven years ago, say they'd gotten about a dozen angry phone calls and about the same number of emails from protesters.
The couple has no plans to remove any of the objects from their bar.
• Catholic group calls Fells Point's Ale Mary's bar 'blasphemous'
• Bar info.: Ale Mary's in Fells Point