WALKERTON, Ind. — Memories Pizza, the eatery that received violent threats after a reporter divulged that its owners couldn’t assist with a same-sex “wedding” if ever asked, has closed its doors, but without explanation. Some opine that the closure was unrelated to the issue, telling reporters that they think the owners just wanted to retire.
The location closed last month, reports the South Bend Tribune. There have been no new posts on the establishment’s Facebook page in nearly three years and the owners did not respond to an inquiry from the outlet.
As previously reported, the controversy surrounding the pizzeria began in 2015 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 then-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.
Ten days later, Memories Pizza re-opened its doors to a full house. The O’Connors said that they wouldn’t keep the money for their personal use, but to improve the pizzeria and to donate toward the causes of those fighting court cases because of their convictions.
They reiterated that they do not refuse service to homosexuals.
“I don’t care who comes through that door. They are people,” said Kevin O’Connor. “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.”
Over a year later, O’Connor lamented the hostile climate in the nation toward those who have differing points of view.
“Out of anger, there seems to be no getting along anymore,” he said. “If your opinion isn’t what somebody else’s is, then I’m a dirtbag. Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I have to hate you.”
A few unkind remarks have been posted to the pizzeria’s Facebook page following reports of its closing, including, “Hahahahahaha. When keepin it bigot goes wrong and forces you to close your store hahahahaha,” and “Maybe you can pray for [God] to save your failing business.”