Folsom Street Events Responds to Religious Right

Folsom Street Events Responds to Religious Right
Joanne Cachapero
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Nonprofit organization Folsom Street Events’ (FSE) Board of Directors has issued a statement addressing protests by various religious groups of the organization's flagship event, the Folsom Street Fair, which was held on Sept. 30 in San Francisco.

The FSE also has asked its supporters to contact Miller Brewing Company, a vendor and fair sponsor, and encourage the beer company not to “cave in” to pressure from right-wing groups to stop its participation in the fair.

“Please support Folsom Street Fair by calling Miller Brewing Company and thanking them for not caving into extreme right-wing pressure, requesting that they pull out from presenting sponsorship of our Fair,” the organization said.

“We have worked successfully with this company for many years, and they have been very supportive. This is no longer an issue of our poster image, but it is an issue of free speech and freedom of expression. We think it's important for Miller to hear from you — the people who enjoy the Fair. Please contact Miller spokesman Julian Green at green.julian@mbco.com or call (800) MILLER-6 or (414) 931-2000 to let them know how much you appreciate their support.”

FSE named the Catholic League as chief among the groups that are protesting the street fair, which is one of the largest outdoor events held annually in California. The event is the culmination of Gay Leather Pride week in San Francisco.

This year was the 24th anniversary of Folsom, and last year’s event saw attendance of more than 350,000 and raised more than $300,000 in revenue for various Bay Area charities.

“We can no longer stand by while Folsom Street Fair remains under attack. The Catholic League insists upon provoking its followers, resulting in emails and phone calls threatening us with everything from ill-will to bodily harm,” FSE Board of Directors' President Andy Copper said.

“We understand that The Catholic League believes it is doing ‘the right thing’ but they are attacking our San Francisco values of community, diversity, education and freedom of self expression. If they do not share in our values or do not understand them, that’s fine; but they have never opened up a dialogue with us. They have only stood in judgment, making threats. We can no longer remain silent on the issue,” Copper said.

In the week leading up to the fair, the controversy intensified when The Catholic League and various religious groups took issue with the official poster art of Folsom, which depicted a tableau similar to Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper” with the subjects of the photograph dressed in drag and various leather/fetish gear.

The Catholic League website then posted photos of last year’s fair, and made an appeal to its supporters to boycott Miller Brewing Company for their participation in an “anti-Christian” event.

Today, the Catholic League posted another statement, declaring that it will petition rabbis and Muslim imams in the Milwaukee area, to support the boycott of Miller Brewing Company.

“Last week we sent some photos of the Miller-sponsored Folsom Street Fair to all the pastors of the 166 Protestant churches in Milwaukee. Today we are blanketing all the synagogues and mosques in Milwaukee; we are asking rabbis and imams for their assistance in protesting Miller’s anti-religion agenda. Next week we will target another segment of the Milwaukee community,” the League said.

“Our anti-Miller PR campaign and boycott of Miller beer will continue on a weekly basis until such time that the Miller Brewing Company issues a statement reassuring Americans that it will never again promote an anti-religious event.”

Related: