An Indiana pizzeria in Walkerton, a town with a population of 2,200 located nearly 20 miles south of South Bend, became recently the epicenter of a national controversy for being recently deemed the “first business to publicly deny same-sex service” after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)’s enactment.
Nevertheless, after its owners publicly stated that they would not cater for gays, the pizza shop had to temporarily close doors since the place was flooded with threatening phone calls and social media posts coming from the angry LGBT community.
“I don’t know if we will re-open, or if we can, if it’s safe to re-open. We’re in hiding basically, staying in the house,”
said co-owner Crystal O’Connor after the LGBT backlash.
Yet, religious freedom supporters didn’t remain passive either. They instead donated more than $40,000 for Memories Pizza, which is viewed as “a Walkerton mainstay,” on a crowdfunding site. The sum was collected in less than six fours.
The controversy was spurred Tuesday night after O’Connor, one of Memories Pizza’s co-owners, told a reporter that her pizza shop would refuse to provide pizzas for a gay wedding as it would be against its proprietors’ religious beliefs.
But the pizzeria owners clearly stated that they wouldn’t deny service to gay individuals that casually entered their restaurant. Instead, they would refuse to cater a same-sex wedding, as they didn’t believe in such union.
But maybe the reporter’s intention was indeed to start a controversy as Memories Pizza gives a lot of hints about its owners’ beliefs. For instance, it has a prayer box where clients can drop slips of paper with what they wish the pizza shop staff to pray for. Also, it features several crosses and a sign which states that Memories Pizza’ staff gathers and prays together daily before the opening.
Soon after the announcement was made, the Indiana pizza shop’s Yelp page was assaulted by angry users whose battle cry was zero-tolerance to discrimination.
But defenders soon showed up claiming that it was the right of a business to refuse to cater for a gay wedding as it went against their owners’ religious beliefs. One commenter even urged other users to “cue the gay mafia.”
The GoFundMe page called “Support Memories Pizza,” whose initial goal was to collect $35,000 for the pizza shop, saw more than $40,000 worth of donations coming from more than 1,000 people in nearly six hours.
The fundraiser was set up by a conservative news network, whose contributors said that nobody should suffer alone because they were standing up for their Christian values.
O’Connor also told reporters that her pizzeria wasn’t discriminating against anyone. Instead its owners are entitled to have a belief and express it just like everybody else does. She also said that Memories Pizza owners were definitely supporting the RFRA.
Other RFRA supporters claim that the bill does not provide anyone the right to discriminate against gays in the name of the First Amendment. Instead, the law is meant to secure the vitality of religious freedom across the state.
But the Indiana religious freedom law was severely criticized by Tim Cook, Apple’s openly gay CEO, and Wal-Mart and other businesses. Moreover, a gay fan even urged the NCAA to pull its Final Four tournament from Indianopolis.
Image Source: NY Daily News