Indiana Town Taking Mardi Gras Too Far?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 16, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment, February 25th marks the fourth annual Muncie, Indiana, Mardi Gras celebration known to locals as the Muncie Gras. Not everybody is excited for the party. Local religious leaders are distributing this home video of last year's festivities to show folks just how wild and crazy Muncie Gras can get.

The event brings in about $35,000 a year.

Joining us from Indiana, Indianapolis, Pastor John Tyner, who thinks all public intoxication and nudity is bad for Muncie.

OK, Pastor. That may be the case, but it doesn't seem as though local officials are playing along right now. Why?

JOHN TYNER, PASTOR: Right now I don't think that they're as aware as they should be as to how the community in general feels. I think there's a lot of faith leaders and a lot of people in the community that don't condone what's happening downtown during Mardi Gras.

SNOW: As I understand it, what the police has said is, "Well, look, we're just not going to police Muncie Gras this year." They get 8,000- 10,000 people. They raise $35,000, $40,000 bucks that's used for downtown development. Because, at least in the words of the police, that will create more problems than it's worth? Your reaction?

TYNER: My reaction to that is that some misguided person is going to see that as an opportunity to go in and create havoc or have lewd behavior or is going to promote more drunkenness, and we're going to have a great big problem downtown sometime, if not this year and sometime in the future.

SNOW: Now Muncie is the home of Ball State University. How many of the participants here are college kids just having a wild night?

TYNER: Well, from what I have been able to ascertain, a lot of people that come to Mardi Gras, if not most of those people, are young people. That's part of the problem. Part of the problem is that I believe that the city of Muncie has a responsibility to look after these young people.

Our civic leaders, our mayor, the downtown development commission who promotes this for moneys need to be more responsible to look after the welfare of some of these young people.

SNOW: Do you think the city is in it strictly for the bucks?

TYNER: I have no doubt that that's the main reason. I think our mayor, really, when he talked to the clergy that want to approach his office, our mayor let us know that it wasn't something that he had a taste for, himself. He had never been to the event.

But when asked, you know, "Mr. Mayor, are we going to do this year?"

He said, "It's too late to stop it this year. How about next year?"

And he wouldn't give us a comment about that. Only comment that we had was it was a good fundraiser for the city.

SNOW: Do you worry that the publicity you have given this are actually going to draw more people to it this year?

TYNER: Yes, that's a concern, but you know, the main thing that I want to bring attention to is that a lot of the citizens in our community did not know. Many of them will not go to the event because it's well known that Mardi Gras is a time of the year that people use to let down their inhibitions.

So the average person in Muncie, and it is a religious community. There's about a church on just every street corner. Many of them don't understand what happens in the downtown during Mardi Gras. And that's why we produced the video. That's why we asked the faith leaders to come in to view it and today, you know, we have many of them onboard with us.

SNOW: Very quickly, are you going to show up to try to police it yourself?

TYNER: No. Absolutely not.

SNOW: Why not?

TYNER: It's not my place.

SNOW: Why not?

TYNER: It's not my place. We're going to take our cameras there, so that we'll have some video for next year if the fight goes on, but I'm not going to try to police it. It's not my place.

SNOW: All right. Pastor John Tyner, thanks for joining us.

TYNER: Thank you.

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