Supporters of the Indiana family under attack for refusing to cater a hypothetical gay wedding stepped up Thursday, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and dropping by Memories Pizza even though it remained closed after a rash of threats.
A crowdfunding campaign launched by conservative talk-show host Dana Loesch and her staff had collected more than $410,000 in 24 hours for the O’Connor family to help with “the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith,” said a statement on the GoFundMe.com page.
The O’Connors shut down the restaurant after being bombarded Wednesday with angry phone calls and social media posts, a reaction to co-owner Crystal O’Connor telling ABC57 that the family would not cater a same-sex wedding ceremony for religious reasons — not that they had been asked to do so.
At one point, the family had even considered leaving town over the uproar, but Ms. O’Connor, 21, said on Ms. Loesch’s Twitter on Thursday, “It’s totally different today than it was yesterday. We’re not leaving.”
Meanwhile, a half-dozen supporters arrived at the closed pizzeria Thursday, including Pastor Ken Bilsborrow from Good News Bible Church in Coldwater, Michigan, who told ABC57 that he drove nearly 115 miles to Walkerton.
“These people are trying to make a living, but they have Christian convictions that no one should have the right to take away from them. The government doesn’t have a right to do that. No one does,” said Mr. Bilsborrow.
Ms. O’Connor and her father, Kevin O’Connor, have also said that the pizzeria was never asked to cater a gay wedding and had never turned away a customer for religious reasons. The pizzeria appeared to be selected at random by an ABC57 reporter, who said on Twitter that she “just walked into their shop and asked how they feel.”
Even so, critics accused the pizzeria of refusing to serve gay customers. Alex Berg, a producer for HuffPost Live, said in a Twitter post, “#MemoriesPizza is the first #Indiana business to publicly deny service to #LGBT people,” and then posted the pizza shop’s phone number.
“Boycott #MemoriesPizza of Walkerton, IN. They already declare refusal to gay customers,” said self-described LGBT activist Jason Lewis on Twitter.
The assistant police chief in tiny Walkerton, population 2,000, told ABC57 that the force has beefed up security in response to the outcry. The family says it has received death threats.
A local high school golf coach was suspended pending an investigation after she asked on Twitter, “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?”
Lawrence Jones, a television opinion contributor to the Dana Loesch show, said in a statement on the Gofundme.com page that the money raised would all be transferred to a bank account identified by the O’Connors, minus the website percentage.
“Rather than allowing this family to simply have their opinion, which they were asked to give, outraged people grabbed the torches and began a campaign to destroy this small business in small town Indiana,” said Mr. Jones.