Donors raise almost $850,000 for embattled Indiana pizzeria 'set up' by ABC affiliate

by Will Hall, |
The ABC affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, targeted small businesses in small towns for opinions that were not as "welcoming" to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders as in that city which is home to the University of Notre Dame. | ABC57 in South Bend, Indiana/screen capture

WALKERTON, Ind. (Christian Examiner) – Supporters donated $842,592 in just two days in an effort initially set up just to help an embattled Indiana pizzeria survive a vicious attack by homosexual activists intending to close the small town business' doors.

Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, was thrust into the debate about Indiana's religious liberty law when an ABC affiliate in South Bend, Indiana, went trolling in small towns to target small businesses whose owners supported the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and opposed same-sex marriage.

Crystal O'Connor told a roving reporter March 31 her Christian-run pizza and ice cream shop did not discriminate against anyone, but if ever asked to cater a gay wedding she would decline because of her religious beliefs.

The news team set up the segment with ABC 57 anchor Brain Dorman saying the local affiliate had gone outside its city into "small towns" for reaction to Indiana's RFRA and found "one business just 20 miles from a 'welcoming' South Bend ... with a much different view."

Likewise, the station ran on-screen banners like "Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples" although the question of the pizzeria catering a gay wedding was hypothetical. It does not offer a wedding catering service.

Online, the television outfit ran "RFRA: First business to publicly deny same-sex service," although the Christian family had not turned anyone away.

A national story erupted from there, and homosexuals attacked the O'Connors through social media and threatening phone calls. A lesbian coach even tweeted for others to join her in burning down the pizza place.

The end result is the O'Connor family shut down Memories Pizza, at least temporarily, out of safety concerns.

"We're very hurt and confused and we stood up for what we believe," Crystal O'Connor said. "The news just took it totally out of proportion.

"They lied about it," she added. "We said that we would serve anyone that walked in that door, even gays, but we would not condone a wedding. We would not cater that because it's against our religious beliefs."

In stepped The Blaze TV, a conservative television network and website founded by talk show radio personality Glenn Beck, to set up a GoFundMe page seeking to raise $25,000 in two days so the family could weather the firestorm. Donations quickly soared past that goal and the subsequent revised target of $200,000.

The Blaze TV now reports the O'Connors will receive free financial advice from a wealth management expert and an accountant who will meet with them Monday about the nearly $850,000 windfall.

The family is not sure when it will reopen Memories Pizza due to continuing concerns about safety for themselves and their customers.