In an apparent victory for the social justice warrior (SJW) Left, a small Indiana pizza joint closed without fanfare last week. The business, Memories Pizza, became infamous after the owners, Kevin and Crystal O’Connor, told an ABC reporter they would reject a hypothetical request to cater a same-sex wedding due to their religious beliefs. Backlash even forced the business to temporarily shut its doors in 2015, though it later reopened.
Kevin O’Connor later lamented America’s toxic political environment. “Out of anger, there seems to be no getting along anywhere,” he told the South Bend Tribune in October 2016. “If your opinion isn’t what somebody else’s is, then I’m a dirtbag. Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I have to hate you.”
A sign in the front window of Memories Pizza admitted that it closed last month, the Tribune reported Monday. The review website Yelp confirmed the closure. The sign did not explain why the pizza joint closed. While the 2015 controversy may suggest an answer, sources told the Tribune that the O’Connor likely just wanted to retire.
“Late last week, several people and business owners in Walkerton declined to speak publicly about the closing of Memories Pizza. But some said privately they didn’t think the pizza shop’s closure was a result of the 2015 controversy,” the Tribune reported. “The owners, they said, were simply ready to retire.”
The O’Connors did not comment on the closure.
Memories Pizza may not have closed directly as a result of the 2015 controversy, but the hyper-partisan battles over social issues likely contributed to the O’Connors’ fatigue nonetheless.
The controversy began after multiple companies and celebrities blacklisted the state of Indiana over a Religious Freedom Restoration Act securing broad conscience protections that LGBT activists and other SJWs denounced as enabling discrimination against LGBT people.
This activism involved — and still involves — an unfair mischaracterization of people like the O’Connors. In the original interview with the ABC 57 reporter, the owners of Memories Pizza said that while they would not cater a same-sex wedding, they would gladly serve any customer in their restaurant, regardless of sexual orientation.
Their stance echoed that of many other small business-owners who gladly serve LGBT people but refuse to lend their talents to a wedding between two members of the same sex, on the grounds that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
The Supreme Court is currently considering one such case, that of Jack Phillips, owner of the Colorado bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that he must bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. Phillips has argued that his First Amendment rights to free expression, free association, and the free exercise of religion enabled him to refuse to bake such a cake. Government forcing him to do so would violate his religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, it would effectively compel him to speak through his art in favor of something he disagrees with, and it would force him to associate with a public event he considers to be a rejection of his beliefs.
SJWs and LGBT activists routinely dismiss these important issues, claiming that “religious freedom” is a smokescreen to justify anti-LGBT discrimination. This is patently absurd, as both the O’Connors and Phillips gladly serve LGBT people in their respective establishments. Small businesses like Memories Pizza and Masterpiece Cakeshop merely wish to opt out of serving public LGBT events like a same-sex wedding, on the grounds that doing so would go against their religious beliefs.
Rather than accepting that some people still disagree with same-sex marriage, LGBT activists have insisted that everyone must embrace their ideology. Religious freedom is a compromise — allowing LGBT people to live as they see fit, but insisting that they do not force people who disagree to champion their identities.
After the O’Connors announced that they would gladly serve LGBT people but refuse to cater same-sex weddings, a Concord High School coach was fired for posting an online comment about burning down Memories Pizza.
The attention, protests, and death threats led the store to close for eight days, but they also drew attention to the O’Connors’ plight. The Memories Pizza owners appeared on Glenn Back’s radio program, and a GoFundMe page raised more than $846,000 for the couple. More than 29,000 people donated to help them.
Since the controversy, the O’Connors mostly laid low. Even so, the rancor of American politics still bothered Kevin O’Connor. It seems the owners of Memories Pizza wanted to retire, but it is quite likely the controversy helped propel them to that decision.
SJWs may claim Memories Pizza as a scalp, but the Supreme Court may also vindicate the religious freedom, free speech, and free association of small businesses like theirs. Such a victory for Jack Phillips would help to quell some of the partisan rancor, and remind Americans that free speech and religious freedom are essential American values, even when used in support of causes that may not be popular.