April 2, 2015; TIME
After the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, businesses and organizations throughout the state (and those with just a presence within the state) hurried to distance themselves from the new legislation. The outcry was strong and swift, which eventually led Governor Mike Pence to sign amendments to the act yesterday.
However, in the face of all this activity, one business showed their gratitude for the ability to discriminate granted to them by the RFRA. That was Memories Pizza, owned by the O’Connor family in Walkerton. When the legislation hit, Chrystal O’Connor went on the record to say that, although they would never deny service to a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion just coming in to eat, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” citing their firmly held religious beliefs.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
“We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything,” says O’Connor.
The backlash against the O’Connors was, as one could imagine, rather swift. Yelp reviews excoriating the family for their position sprung up rapidly, and the owners allege that they have since received complaints, prank pizza orders, and even threats over their position. Since it’s hard to run a business in the face of this kind of outcry, Memories has suspended its business operations—at least temporarily, as the owners told Fox News that the restaurant would eventually reopen, although they were not sure when.
However, in a not-altogether surprising turn, the O’Connor family has become a cause célèbre of the conservative world for their stance. A crowdfunding campaign affiliated with Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has apparently raised more than $500,000 to help “relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith.” The massive sum was raised by more than 17,000 people over the course of a day.
The power of the conservative community to rally in support of someone whom they felt was unjustly pilloried was demonstrated most recently with the funding campaigns to help Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, which outstripped the corresponding fund for Michael Brown’s family. Although the fates of a police officer and that of a pizzeria are hardly comparable, they both demonstrate the power of a national public backlash and a dedicated base of financially motivated supporters.—Jason Schneiderman