Conservative Christians Pass the Plate for Anti-Gay Indiana Pizza Parlor, Raise $800,000 in Two Days

Indiana RFRA - Typical Gay Wedding ReceptionWhen Crystal O’Connor, the owner of an Indiana pizza parlor said she wouldn’t cater a gay wedding because she is a Christian, the story went viral. Not surprisingly, one immediate response was laughter: “What gay couple would have pizza catered at their wedding?” “Wedding pizza—is that a thing in Indiana?”

But not all comments and reactions were good humored. One Indiana basketball coach tweeted an invitation to burn down the business.  She was caught and suspended from her job, but daunted by an outpouring of indignation, hostility and sarcastic Yelp reviews and pro-gay anti-religion photos, Memories Pizza closed their doors, saying they might not reopen. Some on the Left relished the thought that bigotry might have a tangible pocketbook price.

But many Christian conservatives saw the situation differently. To them, the owners of Memories Pizza were simply earnest believers, exercising their religious freedom to live according to biblical principles. Conservative commentator Dana Loesch and her staff set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of the O’Connors, and the campaign received more than $800,000 in two days before it closed. Support even spilled over to the sluggish campaign of a Washington florist who had refused to provide wedding flowers to a long time gay customer.

Religion, Bigotry or Both?

Conservative commentators insist that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act isn’t about bigotry—it simply aims to protect the free practice of religion. On the other hand, Christians who support equal rights for LGBTQ Americans have argued that it isn’t about religion—that the problem is bigotry, pure and simple. As one person commented on Facebook, “People who call themselves Christians and then discriminate and cast judgement are NOT, I repeat NOT Christians.”

But the Supreme Court, during the Hobby Lobby decision, made it clear that a religious belief need only be “sincerely held,” not widely held or factually accurate, in order to warrant protection under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And a brief sampling of supportive comments aimed at Memories Pizza would suggest that opposition to queer rights is a very “sincerely held” tenet of faith for many conservative Christians.

  • This makes me so happy!!! What a blessing and proof that God can turn evil (what those intolerant people did) into good! The amount is going up by the minute!!
  • Thats because the Christians are coming together.
  • This is a testimony of the “Christian Heart & Generosity” that exists out there despite the hurt & harm a minority of people in this country would exact on people that disagree with them. CHRIST WINS THIS ONE!!!! smile emoticon
  • Right On, Right On, Right On! Freakin’ AWESOME. ! This made my weekend! Christians always rule!
  • You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done. Genesis 15:20
  • I can’t wait to go to this place. The owner and daughter are the most genuine humble God fearing people. God’s people are warned they will be persecuted, mocked, and suffer for standing up for God’s truth. The main tragedy is our country has changed and is crawling with VILE LEFTISTS and persecution of Christians has come full bore to the United States.

Comments like these should make it clear: It’s not a question of bigotry or Christianity but rather a question of bigotry that is sanctified and reinforced by Christianity—by the moral framework of the Bible writers, Church traditions, modern fundamentalist leaders, and a community of like-minded believers including those who rallied to defend a pizza parlor’s right to discriminate.

Queers vs. Kids

Given the World Vision fiasco in 2014, it should surprise no one that conservative Christians would donate $800,000 to a pizza parlor as an expression of their antipathy to queer rights. World Vision is an Evangelical Christian aid organization that promotes sponsorships of desperately poor children in developing countries. When the leaders decided that they would extend benefits to married partners of same sex Christian employees, their Evangelical supporters mutinied. Conservative Christian leaders including Minister John Piper vociferously denounced the decision as unchristian and unbiblical. The band Casting Crowns made a point of publically withdrawing their support. And thousands of morally outraged Bible believers swiftly followed suit.

I have written in the past that I think child sponsorship is an unsophisticated and potentially harmful aid model, one that undermines the dignity and authority of impoverished parents and often exploits power differences to advance cultural (or religious) colonialism. I’ll stand by that. But even I was surprised that people who actually like and believe in the model would use their support for poor children as a bargaining chip against gay rights.

In an analysis published this March, World Vision stated that between 15,000 and 19,000 conservative Christians pulled their child sponsorships in direct reaction to the partner benefits question, with an estimated multi-year cost between 5 and 7 million dollars. World Vision leaders, who by their own report had prayed extensively over the decision, prayed again and apparently heard a different message from God. In an effort to stop the financial hemorrhage and protect their fragile clients from harm, they reversed the decision, issuing a formal statement that marriage is between one man and one woman; but it was too late.

If 15,000 Evangelicals would express their disapproval of gays by pulling funding from desperately poor children in places like India and Africa, children with whom some had even exchanged personal letters(!), small surprise that thousands would rally behind a pizza parlor owner who shared their passion.

The immediate take-away may be that standing against queer rights and for unfettered religious freedom, can be a winning position for individual Christians, as it is for many conservative politicians and institutions. But is it good for Christianity as a whole?

Good for Christians, Bad for Christianity’s Brand

Recent reports suggest that young people raised in Christian families are leaving the faith at a higher rate than ever before, and religious bigotry may be a key factor. When it comes to social wedge issues, young Christians seem rather uninspired by the idea that chosen childbearing is a positive social good. Most haven’t thought much about whether children in Christian homes have the right to be free from religiously motivated beatings. They may be comfortable, in other words, with the parts of the Religious Freedom agenda that give men authority over the bodies of women and children. But the idea that queer people deserve equality, dignity, and love—that much seems clear.

Indiana RFRA - Nurse serve nazisIn fact, a recent poll showed that among likely American voters, gay people are viewed more positively than Evangelicals. Out of 1000 respondents, 53 percent expressed a positive opinion of gay people, while only 42 percent held a positive opinion of Evangelicals—roughly the same as the percent of Americans who describe themselves as born again or Evangelical. Campaigns defending the right to discriminate may feel virtuous, and may help Evangelicals feel good about themselves, but to religious outsiders, they are ugly and mean.

Evangelical leaders have been soul searching in recent years, with sermons, conferences, books and polls all aimed at trying to understand the flight of young people from the Church. If the answer to their question can’t be found in testimonials at, or in the internet’s broad array of de-conversion tools, perhaps it can be found in Memories Pizza and their almost million dollar bank account.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder -
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24 Responses to Conservative Christians Pass the Plate for Anti-Gay Indiana Pizza Parlor, Raise $800,000 in Two Days

  1. archaeopteryx1 says:

    It’s a freakin’ pizza!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s news of this type of insanity that makes me wonder if I’m even living in the US, and if I even want to.

    These people are simply batshit nutso. There’s nothing else to be said really. They’re lunatics running amok without a straight jacket.

    No wonder it took so freakin’ long and cost so many their lives to put an end to slavery. And even when it was “put to an end” it wasn’t. The same type of clueless asshole that you’re discussing here put on their white robes downed with red crucifixes, mounted their horsies and spent the next 100 years making life positively intolerable for everyone. And they ain’t finished yet, either. From all the evidence I’ve been able to gather, I don’t think that they’ll never give up. That’s how bigoted idiots work.

    Fungelicals: a pack of vile, clueless, vicious, ignoramuses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gunther says:

      I might add that slavery is not just against the blacks but also against the Americans workers in the 19th and 20th centuries and didn’t end with FDR’s New Deal. It laid low but then came out of the wood works starting with Ronald Reagan, Bush, Jr., and the Citizens United case.

      Kids are dropping out of religion because they realizes that saying your prayers and going to Church doesn’t help them pay the bills, keep a roof over their heads, put food in their bellies, give them a good paying jon and treat any medical problems that might come up plus seeing how churches are aligning themselves with corporations/wealthy people for the last 35 years.. The robber barons are still around; however, they are now bankers, investment firms, fast food joints, hedge managers, CEOs of various computer technology industries, etc. along with the robber barons of the old industries like oil, steel, etc.


    • lbwoodgate says:

      “Fungelicals”. I like it.


  3. Sha'Tara says:

    Re: young people leaving the churches – that’s nothing new; it’s been going on for decades mainly due to many factors, one being the fact that a broader Christianity is vacillating re: the reality of hell, thus losing the cohesiveness created by the brainwash fear. It is fear that holds religious people together, hence why so much hate and anger is found there, for as Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Here’s another quote, “Father Abbot, why do you hate laughter so?” “Because laughter inhibits fear and when there is no fear, there is no faith.” (The Name of the Rose-movie with Sean Connery based on Inquisition times.) Hell is all about suffering, isn’t it?
    Other reasons for younger people leaving the church are apathy and the growing irrelevance of religious performance in general, and biblical studies in particular. A technological world has much dazzle to offer and the old book promoted by usually poorly educated types simply can’t compete. As for the pizza parlor donations, that’s not religion, that’s mob madness pure and simple. The Christian label is used as a convenient rallying point by a rabble that has no idea what the term implies, having never studied the sayings of Jesus on their own. Had they done so, they would have escaped the pulpit brainwashing and would be able to think for themselves, as I had to do to get to the bottom of what my religion was doing to me: lying all the way to the bank.
    How do you promote a “good” thing to people at the age when idealism hasn’t been completely eradicated? By example. Where can an honest young Christian find examples of what non-Christians would call real Christianity in America? Where the simplicity, humility, honesty, instant forgiveness and unconditional love that must mark the passage of a Christian? What do they see instead? Every opposite example from their leaders, elders and the rabble that sustains them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Agree, Sha’Tara – the Bible, Old to New, is full of a vengeful god, and later his son, wreaking havoc on those who don’t believe in him. Of course, that was designed to invoke fear.


      • Sha'Tara says:

        Yes, if one wants to get the “final” image of what the Christian Christ is really all about, just read the book of Revelation. So no wonder the crusaders believed they were doing the will of God when they slaughtered the people of Jerusalem – they were pre-enacting the return of their Christ riding his horse in a sea of blood “up to the bridle of the horses.” Allowing for hyperbole, that still leaves the problem of literal interpretation for those who are taught the Bible is the inerrant, literal word of God.


      • archaeopteryx1 says:



      • richardzanesmith says:

        just saw this sign out in front of a local church : SOME USE DUCT TAPE TO FIX PROBLEMS , GOD USES NAILS
        and i doubt that the average mid-american even feels the iron-age barbarism from that


      • archaeopteryx1 says:


        Liked by 2 people

      • Sha'Tara says:

        So true, and so sad, Richard. I remember when I had “faith” and so much of what is being exposed here simply was not mentally accessible! Crucifixion; divine rape and various other ordeals by torture were religiously glorified and seemed simply, what to call it, holy? And greater than anything man or science had to offer. I certainly had no inkling at the time that I was totally brainwashed – it was so normal to believe what I believed. The only difference I see, in “defense” of that belief, if it were defensible, is that in my view of thinking, contrary to what modern right-wingers portray, is that I was called to serve, not to force or indoctrinate, and that this “service” whatever it would entail, would cause me, personally, without involving anyone else, serious losses, even loss of life and I remember clearly that I saw this as a necessary part of my own sanctification. Now, I’ve “recalibrated” that expectation into personal self-empowerment and find that service to others is NOT onerous at all; that it need not entail persecutions if done with decency, honesty, humility and compassion – without the need for gods (superior beings in control of my fate) or religion. I don’t know how, or why, I came to save the baby after throwing out the bathwater, but I did it. Now I don’t have to make a Devil’s pact between two intractable opposites: Christianity or Richard Dawkins styled Neo-Darwinism. There is a place between these two for someone who is spiritual, human and conscious beyond mere physical reality. The awareness to be compassionate; the sense of personal purpose given by personal choice to myself tells me much that religion and materialism are desperate to hide from individuals. This, seems to me, is where we need to go if we are to escape the old religiously instituted trap without falling headlong into the dehumanizing pseudo-scientific one of pure materialism without consciousness.

        Liked by 2 people

      • richardzanesmith says:

        well said Shaʔtara, its normal to feel anger after one realizes they’ve been deceived, or cheated in any way. Its probably normal for some to make it their personal mission to make sure that people are warned about a deception that had snagged them. But being ANTI-(fill in the blank) is not enough. Life lived as a reaction is not enough either. Its easier to break things than to build things as children quickly find out when knocking down a stack of blocks. If life is to be meaningful, which i think most would agree is important, it means peeling back all the layers we can and recognizing that our own “reactions” can deceive us or ensnare us into just another kind of bondage, as binding as the one we left. After all many become Christians as a reaction against fear. To live fearlessly means also accepting the possibilities that we can be wrong, we’ve likely missed something important along the way, and that mysteries are endless. Of course we should never lose a sense of caution, because there are hidden dangers, but we can never develop a healthy compassion while driven by fear. enjoying this discussion!


      • Sha'Tara says:

        Quote: “To live fearlessly means also accepting the possibilities that we can be wrong, we’ve likely missed something important along the way, and that mysteries are endless. Of course we should never lose a sense of caution, because there are hidden dangers, but we can never develop a healthy compassion while driven by fear.” That wisdom is very meaningful – and helpful – to me. Now some of the doubts make sense. Maybe, after all, death is not an end, but a scary passage to an incredible new adventure!?! I’ve vowed not to fear death but I wouldn’t want to get cocky about it either. A serious process, which your words clarify, even if perhaps you weren’t thinking about that when you wrote them: thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. richardzanesmith says:

    the law is interesting…does it mean that Muslims making pizza do not have to serve anyone they label as an Infidel…like many born again Christians? Does it mean some Christians who take the Apostle Pauls word as Gods truth mean that some Christians can refuse to serve other so called Christians because they are greedy, descendants of Ham, hypocrits, or worship on the wrong day? Paul commanded…”do not even eat with them!” Does it mean that Atheist pizza makers can on the grounds of religious freedom, say “I refuse to serve Christians who are not acting the love they profess?” where does it stop?


  5. lbwoodgate says:

    The makings of numerous scams. I HATE GAYS! SEND MONEY.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. pakasuchus says:

    Hey do you mean the band Casting Crowns rather than Counting Crowns ( ) ? For a moment there you had me worried I’d have to stop enjoying Counting Crows!


  7. archaeopteryx1 says:

    There was a comment made on CBS TV’s “The Good Wife” this evening. There was a mock trial taking place over an Idaho bakery, where same-sex marriage is legal, refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. Diane (our heroine) asked the religious bakery owner on the stand, how many times Jesus had condemned same-sex relationships in the NT. The truthful answer was none. She then asked how many time he condemned divorcees remarrying – the answer was three times. Yet the lady admitted she had never refused to bake cakes for second marriage couples, invalidating her claim that her refusal had been due to her religious convictions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Well thought out, Lonnie, and well said!


    • I’m glad you took the time to wrestle with this. It isn’t ok for people to be mean and cruel on either side, and when Christians do it, I call them out. It also isn’t effective, frankly. Nothing undermines the cause of queer rights like someone tweeting, “Who wants to go burn down that pizza place with me?”

      Liked by 1 person

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