The owners of Memories Pizza, the Indiana pizza shop that was forced to close down last week after its owners received death threats for stating that they were Christian and would not cater a gay wedding, announced their plans for the $840,000-plus they have received from the online crowdfunding page GoFundMe.
The O'Connor family told The Daily Mail that although they were only looking to raise a goal of $200,000 to help them get back on track after closing shop for about a week and becoming the center of a national media storm, they will be donating much of the extra money to a number of good causes, including giving some to Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman.
The 70-year-old Stutzman, who owns and operates Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, is at risk of losing her life savings, home and flower shop because of a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general after a gay couple posted on social media about how they were referred to another florist when they asked Stutzman to make floral arrangements for their same-sex wedding.
Although Stutzman has known customer Robert Ingersoll for nearly a decade and has maintained a positive relationship with him, she felt that she could not disobey her Christian convictions against same-sex marriage and make floral arrangements for a ceremony that she believes is a violation of her faith.
In late March, Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington's non-discrimination law and was ordered to pay a $1,001 fine, but is still liable to pay a not-yet-determined amount in legal fees and court costs, which her attorney says could cost Stutzman her livelihood and life savings.
Although a GoFundMe page has been set up for Stutzman, it has only raised about $155,000 out of a goal of $200,000 in a little over a month, as compared to the $842,442 that Memories Pizza's fundraising page raised in just over six days.
Additionally, the O'Connor family said they will be donating some of their fundraising money to support disabled children, a woman's help group, firefighters, police trusts and a number of Christian churches.
After closing down their Pizzeria last week due to death threats and an arson threat posted on Twitter by a local high school golf coach, the O'Connor family finally reopened their restaurant at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
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Crystal O'Connor, who co-owns Memories Pizza with her father, Kevin, asserted that although so much outcry came from the LGBT community regarding her comments in an ABC57 interview last Tuesday, the family will stand their ground and won't be serving pizza or their pulled-pork sandwiches for same-sex wedding receptions, if asked to cater such a ceremony.
"Because of what we believe, we can not condone a [gay] wedding but anybody is welcome into this shop and we will serve anyone. But, we will not participate, in any way, in a gay wedding," O'Connor told the Daily Mail.
Kevin O'Connor seconded his daughter's remarks.
"I don't care if they are gay. I don't care if they walk in on their hands. I don't care if their heads are attached to their knee. They are more than welcome to come in and eat," O'Connor explained. "That is not what this is about. We believe that it is not right for a man to marry a man and for a woman to marry a woman. People could end up marrying trees … come on!"
Although the O'Connors were frightened by the initial backlash they received from their TV interview, Kevin said once he saw the flood of support from across the country, the negativity that the family was receiving fell to the back of his mind.
"It nerved me to see things like that but once the support started coming back, the [hostility] became secondary," he told the Daily Mail. "We are human. They scare you and make you nervous, but the kind words that we got has since outweighed so much of that. I know people can be mean and I know sometimes they are mean and they really don't intend to be that way, but it just happens that way sometimes. So, I don't hold any animosity toward those people. It's just human nature."
Although the Memories Pizza GoFundMe fundraiser fell a little shy of raising $1 million, O'Connor said he cared more about the words of support that he and his daughter were receiving rather than the money.
"It's not the money," he said. "The money is nice and I don't want to belittle that, but its the human support, the kind words that keep your head up, and encouragement that we got from so many people. The money is fantastic and that will help. It is just the … physical human compassion that encouraged me."
O'Connor said he doesn't regret what was said to the TV reporter. He explained that when his daughter called him and said that a TV reporter wanted to do an interview about what they think about Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he felt a duty to explain the shop's position on the law and if they didn't, it would be comparable to denying Jesus before man.
The only thing that O'Connor regrets is the chaos that was brought upon his town of Walkerton, Indiana.
"Walkerton is a good town; there are good people in this town and what happened, we didn't want anything like that, and they didn't deserve the kind of negative attention they are getting because of this," he added. "Things got said that were not true and it made for a bad situation. For that reason, I am sorry that it went where it did. I am not sorry for what was said but I am sorry that it put the town in this situation."