This page was last updated on October 14, 2015.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tolerance as a: “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own,” b: “the act of allowing something.”
Let’s take a look at what happened to Memories Pizza, a family-owned pizzeria in Walkerton, IN (population 2,144 as of 2010 census).
Note: There’s an update to this story at the bottom of the page.
During the manufactured uproar over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, signed into law March 26, 2015), a South Bend, IN, TV station (ABC 57/WBND) sent a reporter (Alyssa Marino) to find examples of how the RFRA would encourage discrimination against homosexuals. Instead of looking in “welcoming South Bend” (the words of ABC 57 talking-head Brian Dorman), however, ABC 57 sent the reporter to look in “small towns.” To date, I haven’t seen any report describing how the reporter came to target Walkerton and family-owned Memories Pizza. Could it have been the Christian-themed pieces adorning the shop? During the interview, the reporter asked co-owner Crystal O’Connor (She and her father are the owners.) a hypothetical question: if requested, would Memories Pizza cater a same-sex “wedding?” Ms. O’Connor replied, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.” At the end of the interview, the reporter says, “The O’Connor family told ABC 57 news that if a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion came in to the restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service.” As nicely summarized in a piece on reason.com, “The owners of Memories Pizza, the O’Connor family, did not willingly seek out controversy, deny service to a gay person or couple, or even go out on a limb to suggest that they would. No, they merely responded to a question from Alyssa Marino, a local reporter for ABC 57 News who had come to their shop in search of a story.”
Did you note the follow-up question the reporter chose not to ask? What if the participants in a same-sex wedding were heterosexual? That is, both participants in the same-sex “marriage” are heterosexual but want access to the same economic and legal benefits as any other married couple.
In subsequent interviews, it should come as no surprise we learn Memories Pizza during its nine years in business had never been asked to cater a wedding – either same-sex or traditional - by anyone. Even the reporter belatedly conceded in a tweet, “They’ve never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.” I like pizza as much as the next guy, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess having a pizza place cater a wedding is relatively rare.
At this point, any reasonable person would see there was no story. Memories Pizza did not and would not discriminate against homosexuals. The only “offense” was not giving the “correct” answer to a question about a hypothetical situation that had not occurred and likely would not occur. That didn’t stop ABC 57, however. I think it’s fair to conclude ABC 57 had already determined what the story would be and simply sent out the reporter to find someone to put in front of a video camera and microphone.
The misleading and misreporting began immediately. The obvious bias began with the lead-in when talking-head Brian Dorman said, “Only on ABC 57 News tonight. We went into small towns tonight for reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We found one business, just 20 miles away from a welcoming South Bend with a much different view.” What’s the basis for the “welcoming South Bend” comment? Using ABC 57’s apparent definition, in a city of more than 100,000, are we to believe all businesses are “welcoming?” Before one word of the interview aired, viewers were told the target business wasn’t “welcoming.”
Throughout the story’s original airing, text at the bottom of the screen read, “Restaurant denies some service to same-sex couples.” The original title of the piece on the ABC 57 website was “RFRA: First Michiana business to pubicly deny same-sex service.” Any reasonable person would interpret the chyron and title to mean Memories Pizza refused to serve same-sex couples who came to their shop. Even the piece itself did not make this claim. Apparently someone at ABC 57 got half a conscience and later changed the title to “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.” As you can see if you go to the interview’s web page, the page’s URL still reads “rfra-first-business-to-publicly-deny-same-sex-service.” The new title is still misleading, however, because most readers would interpret it to mean the pizzeria had been asked to cater a same-sex “wedding” and refused. As noted above, this is not true. Nevertheless, most “news” outlets carrying the story used similar misleading titles.
All hell broke loose for the O’Connors after the story aired. Throughout social media, the O’Connors were attacked and threatened with violence. For example, an area high school coach tweeted, “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?” Jessica Dooley’s school suspended her pending an investigation and local police have initiated an investigation. Fearing for their safety, the O’Connors temporarily closed Memories Pizza. Other “tolerant” people abused the pizzeria’s page on Yelp.com, bombing it with bogus comments and ratings. As of July, Yelp removed 7,457 reviews “for Violating [its] Content Guidelines or Terms of Service. Despite Yelp’s efforts, some obviously bogus reviews remained. Of the 14 remaining “recommended reviews,” nine were from California and all of the nine were bad and posted after the ABC 57 hit piece. As for Miss Dooley, the school district fired her about three weeks after it suspended her.
Upon learning of the situation, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze interviewed the O’Connors. At the end of the piece, the interviewer told Crystal O’Connor The Blaze established a GoFundMe account for Memories Pizza so people could contribute and help the O’Connors while the pizzeria was closed. The goal was $25,000. As soon as it became known people were contributing, the crazies got even crazier. A popular claim among wackos is somehow the O’Connors orchestrated the whole thing, from the ABC 57 hit-piece to the GoFundMe account. Here’s one example from a “Modern Family columnist for Yahoo.”: “Later we will learn that #memoriespizza set this whole thing up to wring $200K out of homophobes.”
One member of the media went the extra mile and reported the account for fraud. Alix Bryan, web reporter for CBS 6 (WTVR in Richmond, VA) sent out several tweets, including “Are you kidding me? Indiana pizzeria raises $17k in an hour by being bigoted?,” “According to Google you are CLOSED, memories,” “I wish I had time to set up a GoFundMe for Casey’s General Store in Walkteron, IN. Maybe they could give away pizza to all ppl w/ funds,” “I’m still scratching my head. Why does this pizza place need $25,000? And the fundraiser is being done by a news enterprise?,” and “Sausage (the big thick kind) from Memories Pizza.” The “sausage” tweet included a photo of a Memories Pizza menu with a penis-shaped pizza.
In addition to the other Bryan tweets was the following: “I have reported the GoFundMe for Memories Pizza for fraud. Just in case.” Translation: A member of the mainstream media reported fraud though she had no basis to do so. From what I can see of the overall dialog, Miss Bryan didn’t attempt to contact the sponsors of the account until after she filed her fraud report and was called out by those sponsors. Amazingly, when the account sponsor called out Miss Bryan, she wrote, “It wasn’t bad faith, it was caution. Not sure what you want to prove but I can report you for harassment, & will if needed.” Yep, the instigator of a baseless fraud accusation accuses the target of “harassment!” Classic. Later, Miss Bryan issued a typical non-apology apology, some of which appears to be false or misleading. For example, Miss Bryan wrote she “searched for the name of the person associated with the GoFundMe account and reached out via social media and didn’t receive a response.” First, since the name and contact link of an account’s sponsor is near the top of the account’s page, Miss Bryan didn’t need to search for it. Second, the account’s sponsor claims Miss Bryan didn’t contact him until he responded to her “fraud” tweet. Miss Bryan’s tweet trail supports the sponsor’s assertion.
By now you’re probably wondering how much the GoFundMe campaign received. The campaign raised $842,442 from 29,161 contributors in six days, an average of $29 per contributor. According to its website, GoFundme takes 7.9% of a campaign’s gross receipts plus $0.30 per contribution. This means the O’Connors should have received about $767,140. As for taxes, GoFundMe says, “While this is no means a guarantee, most donations on GoFundMe are simply considered to be ‘personal gifts’ which are not taxed as income in the US.” According to the UK Daily Mail, the O’Connors “revealed they are set to share their new fortune with disabled children, a women’s help group, fire fighters, police trusts, Christian churches and Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, 70, who was fined after declaring she would not serve a gay wedding.” I also remember reading somewhere the O’Connors may use some of the money to do a little remodeling of the pizza shop.
It shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but not all homosexuals supported the abuse heaped on the O’Connors. Though it appears he changed his mind since, in 2008 Elton John said, “What is wrong with [California’s] Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage. Marriage is going to put a lot of people off, the word marriage. … I don’t want to be married. I’m very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership. The word ‘marriage,’ I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships.”
Stating the obvious, it’s clear the arbiters of tolerance are hypocrites and/or have a different definition than most of us. Tolerance is a one-way street to these people. That is, you must tolerate their beliefs, but they don’t have to tolerate your beliefs. Indeed, the tolerance police may bully you to their heart’s content yet consider the bullying to be just and themselves to be perfectly tolerant. Further, their definition of tolerance means you must not only tolerate their beliefs/positions, you must actively celebrate, promote, and support those beliefs/positions while denying your own and asking for forgiveness.
Let’s finish with a couple of questions. First, what would have happened if everything about ABC 57’s piece were exactly the same except the O’Connors were atheist and/or black and/or Muslim?
Finally, why is it we have the right to kill an unborn baby (“right to choose” or “choice”), but the same person doesn’t have the right to choose her customers?
Update of October 14, 2015
A YouTube video was published September 26, 2015 with the title “Memories Pizza Just Catered My Gay Wedding.” So far, most of the coverage has a similar title. Spoiler alert; the title and its variants are a lie. Watch the video and you see a single guy go into Memories Pizza and order two pizzas for takeout. The guy then takes those pizzas to his “wedding” in Chicago. That’s it.
Even if the guy had identified his mission to Memories Pizza, the outcome likely would have been the same. As I wrote above, “At the end of the interview, the reporter says, ‘The O’Connor family told ABC 57 news that if a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion came in to the restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service.’”
Likely disappointed Memories Pizza didn’t ask him for his proof-of-heterosexuality papers, the guy redefined catering and declared victory over the evil Memories Pizza.
“Memories Owner, Kevin O’Connor, called Trevino’s video, ‘a silly thing that they did’” and added, “‘We weren’t catering to their wedding...they were picking up.’” Probably inspired by a former U.S. president, our intrepid videographer responded, “It all comes down to what is the definition of catering.”
What’s funny (sad?) is all the folks childishly high-fiving each other over what they think was fooling people into violating their religious beliefs. What would have been their reaction had someone tricked a homosexual into going on a date with a heterosexual?
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