Memories Pizza is the new face of the RFRA debate

The most recent victim of the progressive left in Indiana, Memories Pizza, fights back with a little help from friends.


LOS ANGELES, April 10, 2015 — This Holy Week, my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed were filled with the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) law, the pushback by the progressive left to paint the law as homophobic, and the ineptitude of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and others to articulate the facts and combat the fallacy.

According to the Washington Post, the 1993 federal RFRA law was intended to restore the “compelling interest test” to situations where religion is substantially burdened even by a neutral, generally applicable law.

At first, the federal RFRA applied to burdens imposed by states as well as the federal government; but in 1997, the Supreme Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in imposing RFRA on the states. So states need to enact their own RFRA laws if they want to assure that state law does not impose substantial burdens on religious exercise to its residents.

Read Also:  Hysteria and hypocrisy over Indiana’s RFRA

The Post article is a good one, and outlines what RFRA is and is not. So, there is nothing new under the sun. Nineteen other states have enacted this law without incident, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas, among others.

The National Conference of State Legislatures lays out the states and the actual statutes, so that thinking people can research the actual language of the law for their states. The conference website says, “These laws are intended to echo the federal RFRA, but are not necessarily identical to the federal law.”

So all the twisting and permutations of a law that 19 other states and the federal government have in place has been nothing more than carefully manufactured stagecraft. As Timothy Carney said in the Washington Examiner, “The misrepresentation would be laughable if not for the awesome power wielded by the anti-religious freedom side.”

Enter intrepid reporter Alyssa Marino of ABC-57 in South Bend, Ind.

Ms. Marino traveled to the small town of Walkerton, Ind., to interview Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza, an openly Christian co-owner, on her view of the Indiana RFRA law.

Read Also:  In defense of the RFRA’s idea, if not its legality 

Ms. Marino asked Ms. O’Connor this hypothetical question: Would their family-owned business cater a gay wedding? Ms. O’Connor said “no” and gave her own religious beliefs as the reason. There are serious doubts that any couple, gay or straight, would request pizza delivery for their reception, but that is a debate for another time.

The business decorates their shop with mementos of their faith, and even offers to pray for customers’ concerns. So where is the story here? Ms. O’Connor’s views and her answer to the hypothetical question should not have been a mystery or a surprise.

Ms. Marino then posts her story with the inflammatory but click-bait-ready headline, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding”.

Without question, the backlash and outrage on social media was per usual. One Indiana high school coach took to Twitter asking who would join her in burning down the establishment. Let that sink in. Threatened violence and destruction of private property over sharing a view that, if you just look at the restaurant, is pretty much a given.

What is interesting is that most of the media is reporting on the social media backlash and the outrage, without pointing out the journalistic malfeasance of ABC-57. Memories Pizza was simply answering questions and minding its own business. Because of the threats and ugliness, they closed their doors in order to protect themselves and deal with the fallout. That means people out of work, no income being earned, ergo, no rent or bills being paid.

When did we enter this Orwellian domain? More important, how do we stop it? When a business is entrapped by a member of the supposed unbiased media for answering a hypothetical question, then gets death threats and threats to destroy its business, we have plunged down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole and we are struggling to crawl our way out.

No matter what you think about the Indiana law or gay marriage, this attack on honest citizens is pure fascism. Championing for the freedom of one group by destroying the freedom of another is nonsensical, counterproductive and dangerous; but such are the tactics of the progressive left.

Read Also:  The Land of the Free includes the freedom to discriminate

Writer Eugene Robinson took to his column to decry Indiana’s, and other states’, RFRA law: “As events this week have shown, the nation is becoming intolerant of intolerance. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence insisted that the absurdly titled ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ was not meant to enable discrimination. But no sooner had the ink dried on the new law than a local pizzeria announced it was just raring to discriminate.”

Robinson is right about one thing: The nation is becoming intolerant of intolerance—particularly from the people who demand tolerance for themselves, but can’t seem to return it in kind. As the week ends, it appears that these anti-religious freedom advocates went a bridge too far in pushing their agenda.

Lawrence B. Jones III, a reporter and contributor to the Dana Show on Blaze TV helped start a GoFundMe campaign for the O’Connors, with an initial goal of $25,000.  Jones posted on the campaign page, “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. Our goal was simply to help take one thing off this family’s plate as the strangers sought to destroy them.”

The fund has surpassed that modest goal, and was over $800,000 at the time of this writing. Talk about crucifixion and then resurrection! The O’Connors’ situation is a testimony to the Easter story.

So is it just bigoted Christians, conservatives and right-wingers who support this? Probably not. After this writer tweeted that I had contributed to the cause, another tweeter responded:

There are Americans of all stripes: religious, atheist, conservative, liberal, you name it, who are sick of the tactics employed to silence speech with which the progressive Left does not agree, and does not line up with their agenda. Another tweeter responded:

This person hit the nail on the head: there is a concerted movement to find offense everywhere and seek to stamp it out by any means necessary. Americans are finally saying, “Enough!”

Lawrence Jones went on CNN to discuss the crowdfunding campaign and why he chose to support freedom.

“We have members of our gay community that are supporting. Look this is not an anti-gay agenda. This is about freedom. And this is about showing love for our gay brothers and sisters, as well. This GoFundMe is to support freedom.”

As spurious and ugly as these attacks are, freedom-supporting Americans of all stripes stood against them. But this won’t be the last we hear of such tactics; hopefully our response will be just as swift and decisive. Tolerance and acceptance should not include death threats or personal destruction. There is no freedom in that for anyone.

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