The fundraiser for owners of an Indiana pizzeria that became the target of widespread animosity after they said they wouldn't cater a same-sex wedding reception has come to an end after collecting more than $842,000.
A GoFundMe page started by a producer from conservative news network the Blaze, founded by Glenn Beck, had drawn more than 29,000 donors as of Saturday. As of Friday evening it had raised $828,000. The website allows donations to be made anonymously.
“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,” wrote Lawrence Jones, a producer who works for Blaze personality Dana Loesch. “But other strangers came to the rescue and the total just keeps going up.”
Memories Pizza landed in the center of a national debate over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Tuesday, when Crystal O'Connor told a local television reporter her family would refuse requests to cater a same-sex wedding reception because it conflicted with their faith.
The comments quickly gained national attention, as activists said the Walkerton pizzeria highlighted concerns that Indiana's legislation allowed blanket protections for businesses that engaged in discriminatory practices.
Staff from “The Dana Show" plan on giving the O'Connor family’s contact information to GoFundMe now that they have raised far more than their goal of $200,000.
“We are coordinating with a respected financial advisor, Ed Butowsky, and the O'Connors right now,” Loesch wrote on her website on Friday. “Butowsky and an accountant are traveling to Indiana Monday morning, pro bono, to meet with the family and set them up so that a blessing doesn't become a burden.”
The backlash against religious freedom laws has affected other business owners as well. A baker in Longwood, Fla., received threats and hateful phone calls on Thursday, after she said she wouldn't design a cake with an antigay message.
"I thought it was a prank call," Sharon Haller told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday.
It wasn't a joke. The next day, she was still being threatened. The caller, Arizona evangelist Joshua Feuerstein, posted a video of the conversation online, Haller said.
In the video, Feuerstein calls the bakery and says he needs a sheet cake that reads "We do not support gay marriage."
After a few seconds of silence, Haller asks, "Is this a crank call?" When Feuerstein explains that he isn't joking, Haller tells him the bakery won't make that type of cake and hangs up.
"There's all of this hoopla going around because Christian bakeries think that they shouldn't be forced?" Feuerstein said in the nearly four-minute video. "We're getting to the place in America now to where Christians aren't allowed any freedom of speech."
The video has since been removed from Feuerstein's Facebook page, but the bakery reposted it on YouTube. Cut The Cake now has a GoFundMe of its own, which has raised more than $5,000 as of Saturday afternoon.
Haller called the experience "very traumatic," and said her decision not to bake the antigay cake "doesn't have anything to do with religion or being gay, it has to do with not promoting hate."
"We're here for everybody. We support gay people, we support religion," she said. "But when someone wants you to say something hateful on a cake, we have the right to say, 'I don't think so.'"
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