An online fundraiser for owners of a family-run pizzeria in Indiana that was forced to temporarily close after it became embroiled in the national debate over the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has netted more than $840,000 from anonymous donors.
In only two days of fundraising, the GoFundMe campaign started by staffers from Dana Loesch’s conservative radio show garnered more than 29,000 donations and more than quadrupled its initial goal of $200,000.
“The intent was to help the family stave off the burdensome cost of having the media parked out front, activists tearing them down, and no customers coming in,” Lawrence Jones, a contributor on Loesch’s show, wrote on the fundraising page. “Our goal was simply to help take one thing off this family’s plate as the strangers sought to destroy them. But other strangers came to the rescue and the total just keeps going up.”
Crystal O’Connor, a co-owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Ind., found her family’s business in the middle of the heated debate over the legislation after she told a local television reporter that her family would refuse to cater a gay wedding because such a ceremony violates their religious beliefs.
In an interview earlier this week, O’Connor told Loesch her family had decided to shutter their business after receiving a spate of threatening phone calls and critical social media posts. Hundreds of commenters flooded the business’s Yelp and Facebook pages labeling the pizzeria discriminatory.
“I have absolutely no income coming in at all,” she said.
To be clear: No one has reported that Memories has actually denied service to anyone. The owners even told ABC 57 they wouldn’t refuse service to a gay man or woman — they would only refuse to cater a gay wedding.
Crystal’s father, Kevin O’Connor, reiterated that point on Wednesday, telling the Los Angeles Times he has no problem with serving same-sex couples. His daughter’s statements, he noted, were made in response to a reporter’s question about a hypothetical situation.
“We service anyone,” the 61-year-old said. “I don’t care who it is. I don’t care if they’re covered with tattoos, I don’t care if they got rings in their ears. I don’t care if they’re gay. The only thing I said was I cannot condone gay marriage.”
Facing a national backlash, Indiana Republican leaders announced on Thursday that language will be added to the state’s controversial religious liberties bill clarifying that business owners cannot deny services to gay and lesbian patrons.
On Friday, Loesch wrote a blog post claiming her staffers had connected the O’Connors with “a trusted financial adviser” who is flying to Indiana on Monday to “walk the O’Connors through everything, look at their books, and get them set up.”