A high school golf coach in Indiana has been suspended after she threatened to burn down a local pizzeria when she heard its Christian owners say earlier this week that they'd refuse to cater gay weddings if asked to do so. The pizza shop has temporarily closed amid safety concerns after its owners received death threats this week.
After Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday, the O'Connor family, which has owned Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, for over nine years, told a local ABC television news reporter on Tuesday that they agree with the new law and believe that it doesn't discriminate against homosexauls, as some claim.
Crystal O'Connor added that should a gay couple come in and want the pizzeria to cater their wedding, the restaurant would refuse to provide services for the event.
"If the gay couple was to come in and say that they wanted us to provide pizza for their wedding, we would have to say no," Crystal O'Connor told ABC 57 News reporter Alyssa Marino. "We are a Christian establishment."
"We're not discriminating against anyone — that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything," O'Connor added. "I do not think it is targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination. [The law is] supposed to help people that have religious belief."
Kevin O'Connor, Crystal's father, told Marino that he feels that homosexuals "choose" to be gay.
"That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual," O'Connor asserted. "Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?"
The O'Connor's comments drew the ire of many LGBT advocates and even caught the attention of Jess Dooley, a girls' golf coach at Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, who took to Twitter to voice her outrage and potentially incite violence upon the pizza shop.
"Who's going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me? Agree with #FreedomofReligionBill? 'That's a lifestyle they CHOOSE' Ignorant," Dooley tweeted from her since-deleted Twitter account.
On Wednesday, the school announced that Dooley was suspended indefinitely pending the results of a police investigation. The Walkerton Police Department issued a statement on the investigation and confirmed that Dooley could face charges.
"Questions have arisen based on Jessica Dooley's Twitter comment," the statement reads. "The Walkerton Police Department has finished an investigation into this statement and submitted a case to the St. Joseph County Prosecutors office for possible charging of harassment, intimidation and threats."
After receiving Dooley's threat and death threats, the O'Connors were forced to shut down their restaurant on Wednesday for safety reasons and are uncertain as to whether it will reopen.
"I don't know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it's safe to reopen," Crystal O'Connor told TheBlaze. "We're in hiding basically, staying in the house."
A GoFundMe online fundraising page has been set up for the pizzeria and has already raised over $165,000 in support for the O'Connor family as of Thursday afternoon. The fundraising page was set up by Dana Loesch and Lawrence B. Jones III of The Blaze, The Huffington Post reports.
"Nobody should ever have to suffer or suffer alone for their faith, for standing up for Christian principles," Loesch said.
Although O'Connor explicitly said the pizzeria would not provide services for gay weddings, some liberal media sources have reported on O'Connor's comments with the spin that O'Connor implied that gays were not welcome or would not be served in their restaurant.
But in an interview with the Daily Beast, Kevin O'Connor clarified the statement and the pizzeria's stance on serving gay weddings.
"I don't have a problem with gay people. I do not condone gay marriage and that's what I said," O'Connor explained. "I don't turn anybody away from the store. I don't have a problem with gay people. I just don't condone the marriage."
O'Connor also emphasized that the pizzeria has never been asked to cater any wedding and that the response was not based on an actual denial of service to a gay couple.
"It's hard to speak when things get taken so out of context and this thing goes sky high and just blows everything up," he said. "I've got a family to think about too."
In the wake of Indiana's RFRA law, a number of companies and organizations have voiced their opposition to the law. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has vowed to move its 2017 convention, which is scheduled to be in Indianaplois, as a result of RFRA.
Among the companies in opposition to RFRA is Angie's List, an online listing service. After voicing its opposition to the law, the Family Research Council and the American Familiy Association called on their members to boycott Angie's List.ABC57 News - See the Difference Michiana