Blog Post

Embattled Pizza Shop Bravely Reopens

memories pizzaCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Supported by thousands of well-wishes, the owners of a pizza parlor in the tiny town of Walkerton, Indiana have decided to open after a firestorm of hate-mail and death threats erupted over their refusal to service same-sex weddings.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Kevin O’Connor and his daughter Crystal have decided to reopen Memories Pizza after being forced to close after giving an honest answer to a reporter’s question about whether or not the devout Christians would cater a same-sex wedding.  Crystal said she would be happy to serve gays in the restaurant, her Christian beliefs compelled her to refuse to cater a wedding, which would celebrate same-sex relations.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal told the reporter.

Within 24 hours, the small pizzeria was inundated with phony and critical on-line reviews along with threats and so many phone calls for pizza they had no idea which ones were real and which were being called in just to harass the family-owned business. Their website was also hacked and pornographic pictures and lewd sayings were posted.

The barrage of hate forced them to close their doors but this was far from the end of their story. Just two days after the interview, their story was making headlines across the U.S. which only succeeded in garnering sympathy for the family and disgust with the outrageous reaction from the gay community.

In fact, one news organization began an on-line funding campaign that brought in more than $800,000 for the family, most of which they plan to give away.

After police reassured them of their safety, the O’Connor’s decided to reopen – and are doing so without apology.

When asked the same question again, Mr. O’Connor told the press: “If any child of mine came out as gay and entered into a gay marriage, I would still love them, but Daddy wouldn’t be going to the wedding.”

O'Connor is not trying to be a hero and says he's just professing the faith he loves.

memories pizza 2“We do not believe in gay marriages, so we will not support them,” he said, and went on to praise the thousands of people who sent the family their well-wishes and encouragement to stand firm.

“I am overwhelmed and not just because of the money, but the positive feedback that we have met with,” Mr. O’Connor said. “There are just a lot of good people out there. It seems like all we hear about is the bad ones and when something like this happens, it seems like the bad ones are the first to come out and get after you.”

He added: “I don’t hate these people. They are just angry. I am not really sure what they are so angry about. 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. When this country was founded it was a Christian nation and those were the rights given to us by the founders and before that by God. People just don’t want you to have those rights any more. I just don’t understand it all.”

He compared the whole experience to be like fighting a fire. The people who spewed hate at the family were like the fire, and the people who rushed to the family’s assistance were like the firefighters who arrive on the scene and start to put out the fire.

Their supporters really helped to build their confidence and bring the family back from the brink. “It is very encouraging to know there are other people out there who think the way you do and feel the same way you feel," O'Connor said.

He then pointed to the front of the restaurant which is decorated with pictures of Jesus, bible verses, and photos of Elvis Presley.

“I don’t care who comes through that door. They are people. 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 knees. They are more than welcome to come in and eat. That is not what this is about. We believe that it is not right for a man to marry a man and for a woman to marry a woman. People could end up marrying trees…come on!”

Some of the family’s detractors are now paying the price for the vicious attack launched against the family. A police investigation has been launched against a sports coach at Concord High School who sent out a Twitter message calling for the pizza shop to be firebombed. The coach, Jess Dooley, has since been suspended.

In the end, the family lost a week’s worth of business but supporters raised $842,000 to offset those damages. They intend to share this generous offering with disabled children, a women’s help group, fire fighters, police trusts, Christian churches and beleaguered Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, 70, who is in danger of losing her home for taking the same stand against providing services to a same-sex couple.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Governor caved to the pressure and reworked the law to make it illegal for people of faith to deny services based on sexual orientation, race, religion or disability.

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