Supporters raise $500,000 for Christian pizza restaurant shut down in gay marriage row

WBNDMemories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana has had to close after an outpouring of anger about its stance on catering for same-sex weddings.

The Christian pizza restaurant that shut up shop in Indiana after receiving death threats for the owner's stance on gay marriage has had nearly half a million dollars in donations raised in one day, reports the WBND news service.

The family-owned Memories Pizza in the small town of Walkerton attained a national profile after a journalist asked the owners Kevin and Christie O'Connor how they would respond to a request to cater for a gay wedding in light of Indiana's controversial new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This is the act signed into law last week that allows businesses and providers of services to the public to discriminate against customers on religious grounds.

The Blaze news site set up the GoFundMe account with a target of just $25,000 and within one day, more than $488,530 was donated by nearly 16,500 people.

On the account page, an contributor to The Blaze explains: "Religious liberty is under assault in Indiana and that's never been clearer than with the O'Connor family."

He says that when asked by local press the hypothetical question of whether or not they'd prefer to have their family owned business, Memories Pizza, cater a gay wedding, the owner said "no" and cited their own religious beliefs as the reason.

"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.

"All for having an opinion that is rooted in faith.

"No one was turned away. No one was discriminated against. It was a hypothetical question asked by a news reporter who had questionable motives to begin with.

"After being interviewed by Dana Loesch on her television show on Blaze TV, we learned that the family may never even reopen the doors to their restaurant as the death threats and vicious online reviews continue to pour in from the arbiters of 'tolerance'."

Giving his identity as Lawrence Jones, one of the television opinion contributors on Dana's show, he continues: "Before the televised interview, producers Rachel, Allison and George discussed the situation with Dana, myself and head writer Ben Howe. We all agreed: this family needs help to get through this assault."

So they set up a GoFundMe page with a $25,000 target.

"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," the account page explains.

"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.

"Thank you for helping us do some good for this family who were scared and in hiding just 24 hours before this writing.

"All money, save whatever percentage GoFundMe takes, will be transferred directly to whichever bank account the O'Connors wish to use.

"Show producers are in direct contact with the family to ensure that they never feel like they are being left out of what is going on.

"Thank you to everyone for your generosity."

Among the threats was a tweet: "Who's going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?"

Mrs O'Connor told Blaze that the family was thinking of leaving Walkerton and possibly even Indiana itself.

"I don't know if we will reopen, or if we can. We're in hiding basically. Yep. Staying in the house."

She said the pizza restaurant had provided the income to pay for her apartment and she had been suspended from another job.

I am suspended on another job that I have until this is cleared up," Christie said, her voice hesitating. "So I have absolutely no income coming in, at all."

WND reported that a Facebook page with thousands of other threats against the pizzeria was "unavailable" and a Yelp protest page had also been set up.

One commenter wrote: "Well I just can't go here or would ever because they engage in discriminatory practices based on I guess perception & 'religious belief.'"

Lifestyle