MEMORIES PIZZA: THE MEANING OF TOLERANCE AND UNDERSTANDING

Until a few days ago, Memories Pizza was a small, family-owned business in the little town of Walkerton, Indiana.  I doubt that anyone but a current or former resident of Walkerton and its surrounding towns ever heard of it.

But now it is famous. And not for any reason the ownership is happy about.

It seems that, when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed by the Indiana state legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence last week, one of Memories Pizza\’s owners, Crystal O\’Connor, publicly expressed her support of the act and said that, based on religious beliefs, Memories would not cater gay weddings.

What has happened since? Well, read the following excerpt from Daniel Bean\’s article at yahoo.com and see:

The owners of Memories Pizza were some of the first Indiana businesspeople to publicly support the state\’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to a report by the Associated Press. While Crystal O\’Connor, the pizzeria\’s co-owner, told a local ABC-TV affiliate Tuesday that her family-owned pizzeria would serve a homosexual couple in the restaurant, she said they would not cater a gay wedding since it would be against her family‚Äôs Christian beliefs.(Yelp)

That story went viral, and those who disagreed with Memories Pizza\’s stance on gay wedding catering took to the restaurant\’s Yelp page. They overran it with joking one-star reviews and posted several graphic images featuring nude men and satirical Christian memes (link NSFW). A parody website filled with anti-homophobic content – memoriespizza.com – was also created Wednesday to protest the restaurant owner\’s statement (also NSFW).

TMZ reported Wednesday afternoon that threatening phone calls and posts on social media have also forced the O\’Connors to temporarily close their restaurant, until the furor dies down.

In other words…in the name of tolerance and understanding for sexual orientation, these people are doing everything they can to shut Memories Pizza down…because they are intolerant of the ownership\’s religious beliefs.

Unbelievable but true.

Remember: gay people are not being denied service at Memories Pizza.  The only thing they are being denied is Memories\’ participation in a ceremony which, based on their religious beliefs, the owners consider sinful.

Does this merit a family business being shut down?

Before you answer, let me ask you a few more questions:

-As you may or may not be aware, adolf hitler\’s birthday is April 20th. What if, today, a nazi sympathizer who adores hitler goes into Memories Pizza and asks that they cater a happy birthday party for him – and Memories Pizza refuses to do so.

Would you have a problem with that? Would the people attacking Memories Pizza for their religious beliefs have one?

-And what if the same nazi sympathizer then walked into the bakery next door and ordered a cake with the inscription “Happy Birthday Adolf! May The Ovens Open Again”?

Would you protest if the bakery declined to provide that cake? Would the people who are busily destroying Memories Pizza protest?

While you\’re thinking about those questions, I would like to tell you something about the Indiana law at the heart of this controversy:  despite what multitudes of people think they know (their knowledge being based on the breathless, can-you-top-this accounts mainstream media are pumping out), the law makes no specific reference to sexual orientation. 

That\’s right.  None at all. 

Doubt me?  Well, you can read the entire law by clicking here.  Or, you can read the relevant parts below.

Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person\’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person\’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person\’s invocation of this chapter.

Sec. 10. (a) If a court or other tribunal in which a violation of this chapter is asserted in conformity with section 9 of this chapter determines that: (1) the person\’s exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened; and (2) the governmental entity imposing the burden has not demonstrated that application of the burden to the person: (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest; the court or other tribunal shall allow a defense against any party and shall grant appropriate relief against the governmental entity. (b) Relief against the governmental entity may include any of the following: (1) Declaratory relief or an injunction or mandate that prevents, restrains, corrects, or abates the violation of this chapter. (2) Compensatory damages. (c) In the appropriate case,the court or other tribunal also may award all or part of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney\’s fees, to a person that prevails against the governmental entity under this chapter.

What does the law say in plain English?  It says that religious rights exist and should be balanced against other rights.   It leaves individual instances which might see the inside of a courtroom to be determined on a case by case basis. 

What is wrong with that?

Oh, one other thing:  When Memories Pizza re-opens, I have no doubt that it is going to be inundated with customers showing support for this local family and their religious beliefs.  I also have no doubt that these customers will immediately be characterized as hateful anti-gay bigots….by the same people whose hatred of religious freedom is what has shut it down in the first place.

As the Wicked Witch of the West said, during her melt-down…What a world, what a world.

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