‘I don’t hate these people. They are just angry.’ – Mr. O’Connor, owner of Memories Pizza

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‘If a child of mine was gay I would love them, but I still wouldn’t go to the wedding.’

The pizza parlor owners who received death threats and were subjected to an online hate campaign will reopen for business tomorrow with the backing of $842,000 from well wishers and a defiant message that they stand by their opposition to gay weddings. They were going to open today but were advised to hold off for security reasons.

In an exclusive first interview inside Memories Pizza restaurant since it closed down last week, owner Kevin O’Connor and daughter Crystal emerged from hiding and told Daily Mail Online they had been heartened by the support of 29,000 people who donated and many more who wrote to them.

They 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.

The tiny pizza joint in the unremarkable town of Walkerton, which has a population of just over 2000, became the focal point of a raging national debate over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed last month.

Critics said it would allow individuals and businesses to use religion as a defense against any accusation of discrimination from gay people.

The bill was severely tested over the last week after Crystal, 22, a devout Christian, told a local radio station that the restaurant she runs with her father would never cater a wedding of two people of the same sex.

Mr. O’Connor and his daughter were still adamant today, despite the furor that has engulfed them, that they would refuse to serve gay marriages with their pizzas.
He added: ‘ If any child of mine came out as gay and entered into a gay marriage, I would still love them, but Daddy wouldn’t be going to the wedding.’

The O’Connors, who serve around 100 pizzas a week to locals, admitted they had never actually been commissioned to provide their 16 inch $12.99 cheese pizzas or pulled pork $5.75 sandwiches to a same sex wedding.

Crystal said:’ I was asked a hypothetical question and that was the answer I gave. But I didn’t hope to gain anything by saying what I said.
‘I wasn’t trying to score points. It is something I believe in from my heart and my faith about gay weddings. But I don’t regret what I said.
‘I have been scared, but God is giving me strength. I think it is nothing compared to what Christ had to suffer.’

Speaking to ABC57 a week ago, Crystal said: ‘If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.’
The remark was quickly picked up by opponents of the new law and sparked an intense and angry debate, with threats being made against the O’Conners, forcing them to close down and go into hiding until today.

Crystal said: ‘I don’t like attention, period. Before all this I was the “Pizza Girl” and I didn’t like that and now I got even more attention.

‘I don’t know how to take it.’
She said the abuse in telephone calls and in online remarks had frightened her of being attacked when walking along the sidewalk in tiny Walkerton which is primarily set around a small stretch of a busy highway.


‘I didn’t want to leave my apartment. I was scared.
‘People were looking at me and all that brought my spirits down. But the support we got also lifted me and made me stronger and humbled. But it has been difficult.’

Her father, who has owned the business for around nine years, said: ‘I am overwhelmed and not just because of the money, but the positive feedback that we have met with.
‘There are just a lot of good people out there. It seems like all we hear about is the bad ones and when something like this happens, it seems like the bad ones are the first to come out and get after you.

‘I don’t hate these people. They are just angry. I am not really sure what they are so angry about. So many things today are topsy turvey. What used to be wrong is now right and what used to be right is now wrong. I don’t hold anything against them.
‘When this country was founded it was a Christian nation and those were the rights given to us by the founders and before that by God. People just don’t want you to have those rights any more.

‘I just don’t understand it all. But it is kind of like fighting the fire. The fire burns big until the fire trucks get there. The fire rages and the more supportive people are like the fire trucks as they come in and start displacing the flames, putting it down and building your spirits back up.’

He recalled how the fury began over a few words Crystal chose to reveal her deep rooted opposition to same sex marriages.

‘This all happened last Tuesday. Crystal was by herself and I was by myself in a different spot.’
He said his daughter telephoned him to discuss a reporter’s request for an interview on the ramifications of the new law and whether she should agree to talk.

Mr O’Conner said he considered the situation after he recalled a verse from the Bible ‘ when Christ said ‘If you deny me before a man, I will deny you before the father’.
He said he felt it would be denying his and his daughters Christian beliefs if they did not admit to their opposition against gay marriage.

After the interview had been broadcast and the negative remarks began, he said he saw his daughter’s despair.
‘She was feeling more and more helpless about it and I was telling her ‘Its going to be ok…its not going to be that big.
‘And then it just blew up and the ugliness arrived. But it was not a throwaway remark that she made. We do not believe in gay marriages, so we will not support them.’

A local teacher sent a message out on Twitter, which was quickly deleted, calling for Memories Pizza to be firebombed. The message is now the subject of a police investigation and charges are being considered against her. The sports school coach has been suspended.

Mr O’Connor said he had read some of the remarks against him and his daughter and he found them ‘vile and disgraceful’.
‘I have seen some of the stuff and it disgusts me and I don’t know how one human being can think about doing something like that to another. I had never really thought about being hated before.

‘But on the day after which was a Wednesday, stuff started rolling in and it really started lifting ourspirits.
‘There were a whole lot of people out there who began voicing our support and just building our confidence.

‘It is very encouraging to know there are other people out there who think the way you do and feel the same way you feel.

Via: UK Daily Mail

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