Media-inflamed hatred forces Indiana Christian business owners into hiding

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
The Blaze launched a GoFundMe page for the Christian owners of Memories Pizza after opponents of Indiana's RFRA threatened their business online and led the company to close its doors. | Go Fund Me Screenshot

WALKERTON, Ind. (Christian Examiner) -- A small, Christian-owned pizza and ice cream shop has been forced to close its doors after the owners voiced support for Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Gov. Mike Spence this week.

"We're in hiding basically," said Memories Pizza co-owner Crystal O'Connor.

In an interview with the South Bend ABC affiliate March 31, she and her father Kevin shared that their Christian beliefs were integral to their business life, and that while they do not discriminate against anyone, they would not cater a gay wedding if ever asked because of their religious views about marriage.

Pence blamed the media for "misinformation" that caused an uproar from liberals and homosexuals about his signing the state's religious freedom law.

The O'Connors say they are victims of the media's social agenda, too.

On Wednesday, the establishment remained closed as media outlets camped outside of the business.

"We're very hurt and confused and we stood up for what we believe," she 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 setting up the segment, ABC 57 anchor Brain Dorman said 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.

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

In the report, O'Connor plainly stated "We are a Christian establishment."

"If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no," she said.

Asked for her opinion about the religious freedom law, O'Connor stated, "I do not think it's targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination," says O'Connor. "It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief."

Almost immediately gay activists viciously attacked the family on social media and by telephone.

Thousands posted negative "reviews" on the pizzeria's Yelp page, and by the next day nearly 3,000 comments had been removed for being "media-fueled" and outside of the sites posting guidelines. One person even created a bogus website for the company that says "Don't discriminate."

O'Connor told The Blaze TV she and her family have felt the need to remain "in hiding," because of the threats they have faced.

"I don't know if we will re-open, or if we can, if it's safe to re-open," O'Connor said. "We're in hiding basically, staying in the house."

One harrasser faces criminal charges.

Jessica Dooley, a lesbian who is an assistant softball coach at Concord Community Schools in Elkhart, Indiana, reportedly took to Twitter to ask who would join her in burning down the establishment. She was suspended without pay for her online threat, and area police have forwarded findings from their investigation to the county prosecutor.

There is some good news for the O'Connors.

The Blaze TV launched a GoFundMe page for the family that to date has raised more than $170,000 from individuals who applaud the family's Christian values. The site states the purpose of the campaign is to "relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors' stand for faith" and asks donors to help "combat leftist hatred."