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Indiana Pizzeria Receives Backlash In The Wake Of Religious Freedom Restoration Act

By aaroncynic in News on Apr 2, 2015 1:15PM

Though pizza isn’t exactly the most popular dish for a wedding, if you’re looking to serve up slices at a ceremony in Indiana, you might want to steer clear of Memories. The family owned restaurant in Walkerton, Indiana became what appears to be the first business to stand up for Indiana’s much maligned “Religious Freedom Restoration” law, which opens the door to discrimination of LGBT individuals in Indiana by businesses based on religious objections.

“We definitely agree with the bill,” Crystal O'Connor, one of the owners of Memories told ABC 57. “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.”

O’Connor said she doesn’t believe the law targets gays and said it wasn’t discriminatory. “It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief,” she said. In a somewhat confusing interview, the family did say they wouldn’t deny service to a gay couple, but Kevin, Crystal’s father, said “That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?”

People outraged by the comments took to Yelp to express their distaste for the establishment and its owners views. “Never have been to your establishment and now never will,” said one user from Minneapolis. “Worst pizza I have ever had regardless of the side of bigotry that comes along with it,” said another from Granger, Indiana. A handful of other users made some disjointed supportive comments for the restaurant as well, SOME IN ALL CAPS, for “standing up for their beliefs”, but the majority of the now hundreds of comments appear negative. State Senator Jim Arnold, who represents the district Memories is located in, chimed in as well. Arnold told ABC57:

“The vast majority of people in this country are not going to stand by and watch that kind of activity unfold. "If that's their stand I hope they enjoy eating their pizza because I don't think anyone else is going to.”

A parody website soon appeared, advertising a large "dick pizza" dubbed the "DICK-ZA" for $6.66, that includes toppings such as "discrimination" and "repressed homosexual urges." It has now been taken down, but we have a screengrab of the website below. NSFW if your employer would frown upon pizzas in the shape of a giant dick:


In all too predictable fashion, justified criticism and mockery quickly turned into reports of death threats, according to Kevin O'Connor. The family since closed their establishment indefinitely, telling the Blaze's "conservatarian" reporter Dana Loesch they might never open again. Because the hard right doesn't ever let a controversy go to waste, the Blaze then set up a page so people could financially support the establishment so the proprietors could recoup their "loses" for their "stand for faith." So far it's raised more than $53,000 in under a day.

Meanwhile, a group of Indiana musicians have penned a letter condemning Gov. Mike Pence and the bill, but also encouraging performers to follow through on scheduled appearances rather than boycott the state. The letter, in part, reads:

“We believe cultural events can be a great opportunity to put a glaring spotlight on injustice. We will continue to proudly call Indiana home, and we call on others in the arts community to address this issue constructively. To musicians with events scheduled in Indiana — please follow through and perform. While canceling shows is one way to protest, a greater statement can be made by coming here and using your art to influence the policy debate that is occurring locally.”

In Chicago, the Northalsted Business Alliance, which represents more than 80 businesses along the Halsted Street corridor and hosts the annual pride parade, is offering an all-expenses paid trip for a lucky Hoosier to Chicago Pride via social media. DNAinfo reports Indiana residents are encouraged to share their proudest moments in LGBT history on the organization’s Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #NorthalstedProud. One winner will be selected on April 10.