WALKERTON, Ind. — A pizzeria in Indiana that was forced to close after it faced arson and death threats by homosexual activists and advocates for expressing their biblical beliefs on marriage re-opened last week to a full house.
As previously reported, the matter began when reporter Alyssa Marino of ABC 57 News in South Bend set out to interview area business owners about their reaction to the controversy over the recently signed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Among the businesses that she visited was Memories Pizza in Walkerton, a place that is decorated with crosses and quotes from Scripture, and begins each morning with prayer.
The establishment had never turned anyone away, nor were there any complaints about the pizzeria, and owner Crystal O’Connor explained to Marino that if a homosexual couple or someone of another religion came to eat there, Memories Pizza would never deny them service.
“I just walked into their shop and asked how they feel,” Marino explained on Twitter. “They’ve never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.”
However, one sentence in O’Connor’s response was highlighted in Marino’s report, as she stated that because of her Christian beliefs, she would have to draw the line at same-sex weddings, which some Christians believe would be a form of participation (1 Timothy 5:22, Ephesians 5:7).
“If a gay couple was to come in—like say, they wanted us to provide them pizzas for a wedding, we would have to say ‘no,’” O’Connor replied in response to Marino’s question.
“We are a Christian establishment,” she said. “We’re not discriminating against anyone. That’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.”
Marino soon published an online report with the angle of “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding,” and the nighttime television report read “Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples.”
The story quickly went viral, and homosexual activists and advocates lashed out at O’Connor and Memories Pizza. Yelp was flooded with hundreds of negative reviews and vulgar photographs, and those angry about O’Connor’s response left messages on Facebook wishing bodily harm and death to the business owner.
“I pray to God all of you get food poisoning!” one commenter named Alex Ollmedo wrote.
“I pray your store burns to the ground with your family in it,” another named Jeff Green lashed out.
Police were called in when Jessica Dooley, a coach at an Elkhart County high school, Tweeted, “Who’s going to Walkerton with me to burn down Memories Pizza?”
The pizzeria soon closed shop and the O’Connor family went into hiding, fearing for their lives.
“I don’t know if we will re-open, or if we can—if it’s safe to re-open,” she told reporters. “We’re in hiding basically, staying in the house.”
A GoFundMe campaign was soon launched by a Blaze news reporter to help “relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith.” While the original goal was $200,000, donations exceeded $800,000 within a few days.
On Thursday, Memories Pizza re-opened its doors to a full house. The Associated Press reports that “within an hour, all eight tables were filled and six people were waiting for carryout orders.” There were no protests.
O’Connor’s father, Kevin, says that he and Crystal will not keep the donated funds for themselves, but will use it to improve the pizzeria and to donate to others who are going through similar situations, such as the florist in Washington who is at risk of losing her business, life savings and/or home because she did not want to participate in a same-sex “wedding.”
“I don’t hate these people. They are just angry,” he told the Daily Mail, referring to those who made threats against the pizzeria. “So many things today are topsy-turvey. What used to be wrong is now right and what used to be right is now wrong. I don’t hold anything against them.”
O’Connor reiterated that Memories Pizza has no problems serving homosexuals.
“I don’t care who comes through that door. They are people,” he said. “I don’t care if they are gay. I don’t care if they walk in on their hands. I don’t care if their heads are attached to their knee. They are more than welcome to come in and eat. That is not what is about. We believe that it is not right for a man to marry a man and for a woman to marry a woman.”
Crystal O’Connor made similar remarks, stating that her answer that day when she was approached by the reporter wasn’t crafted to be popular, but to honor God.
“I was asked a hypothetical question and that was the answer I gave. But I didn’t hope to gain anything by saying what I said. I wasn’t trying to score points,” she said. “It is something I believe in from my heart and my faith about gay weddings. But I don’t regret what I said. I have been scared, but God is giving me strength. I think it is nothing compared to what Christ had to suffer.”