Memories Pizza

Stupidity can pay after all …

O'ConnorPresumably by now you would have heard about the fiasco that’s Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ legislation, and the incredible national and international outfall that followed.

On a local level a curious little story developed over the past 24 hours or so, which can only be described as the triumph of stupidity. Although, contrary to what most of us have been told all our lives, this story proves stupidity can pay after all …

Our story begins a few days after Indiana’s passing of its ‘religious freedom’ bill which was widely interpreted as an anti-gay bill designed to enable businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians.

Yes, seriously!

Of course Indiana’s Governor and legislators continue to deny vehemently the target of the new law is the LGBTI community. Unfortunately for them, nobody is buying that denial.

Enter Memories Pizza into the fray, owned by the good, loving, god-fearing Christian family, the O’Connors in Walkerton, Indiana.

They deemed it necessary to announce to their local TV station they would refuse to cater a gay wedding and Crystal O’Connor told WBND-TV:

If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.

We are a Christian establishment.

There you have it gays, no Christian pizzas for your wedding! It’s what Jesus would have wanted!

Let’s set aside for a moment the glaringly obvious, that hell is likely to freeze over before a gay wedding feast consists of pizza* … I mean have you seen our wedding proposals?!
* My most sincere apologies to any fellow gays who in the past served, or currently plan to serve, pizza at their wedding reception!

Do you really think after an elaborately choreographed wedding proposal we would make our guests eat pizza at the reception?!

The announcement by the O’Connor family was followed by a swift social media response that was predictably less than friendly, turning into the ‘good, loving, god-fearing Christians’ versus the ‘satan-worshipping lefty, liberal fag-lovers’.

Apparently the tone of the conversation deteriorated fast, as the O’Connors alleged they received abusive and threatening messages. I’ve always been of the view that threats of physical violence never helped any cause or situation and, to the extent such actions were taken by anyone, I condemn them unequivocally – even in the face of hateful, discriminatory provocation.

We must always be better than that!

Matters escalated quickly from there, and the new Christian pizza martyrs, a.k.a. the O’Connor family, announced they were being ‘forced’ to shut their pizzeria for the time being, due to the backlash they unleashed.

In response to all of this a ‘Support Memories Pizza’ Go Fund Me campaign was set up by a fellow good, loving, god-fearing Christian to help the poor besieged O’Connor family to cope with the financial consequences of being ‘forced’ to shut up shop for a while:

Purpose: To relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith.

After you donate please go “like” and combat the leftist hatred expressed on Dana’s page.”

Religious liberty is under assault in Indiana and that’s never been clearer than with the O’Connor family.

When asked by local press the hypothetical question of whether or not they’d prefer to have their family owned business, Memories Pizza, cater a gay wedding, the owner said no citing their own religious beliefs as the reason.

Rather than allowing this family to simply have their opinion, which they were asked to give, outraged people grabbed the torches and began a campaign to destroy this small business in small town Indiana.

All for having an opinion that is rooted in faith.

At the time of writing this piece the good, loving, god-fearing Christians of America have donated over $250,000 to the O’Connor family for their ‘troubles’.

Go Fund Me

Imagine how much real good that money could have done by feeding the hungry, helping the sick, or supporting the acceptance of minorities, rather than rewarding … stupidity.

And now it’s time to get sidetracked for a moment and lay down some confronting home-truths.

I said this before, and will say it again: it’s fine to have an opinion. However, you are not necessarily ‘entitled‘ to one. After all, an ‘opinion’ in the absence of evidence and facts to support it is usually old-fashioned bigotry, hatred and prejudice and so it is arguable that no one is entitled to an opinion, especially when the opinion in question has no foundation in facts, or has been conclusively and inarguably debunked. Taking a common sense approach, you should really only be ‘entitled’ to what you can coherently argue and factually support.

I will state this very clearly and unequivocally: bible-based arguments against the fundamental human rights and liberties of LGBTI citizens in 2015 is unacceptable. There, I said it.

Trying to impose the questionable ‘moral values’ of the writers of the Bible on a 21st century society is downright ludicrous. Humanity has undergone fundamental cultural, intellectual and social transformations over the last couple of thousand years and so-called ‘holy’ texts, anchored in the ‘morality’ of our primitive ancestors, are an entirely unsuitable proposition for who we are today as a species.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 12 July 1816

And no, it’s not ‘oppressing’ you when a group of people who were denied their fundamental civil rights, for a very long time, are afforded the same rights and protections you have always enjoyed. That’s social justice and progress, which are both as inherent in humanity as breathing; evidenced by … our entire human history.

Cultures, beliefs, nations, opinions and religions are all mere constructs, and temporal in nature. There is one constant: we are all born human.

This will inevitably mean ‘rights’, when they conflict, will have to have a hierarchy. Such a hierarchy must always prioritise rights attached to innate human characteristics, where such characteristics cause harm to no one, over rights attached to mere constructs.

People have rights, constructs do not.

Consequently, if we choose to protect constructs, whether for cultural or social reasons, such ‘rights’ can only ever be secondary and will be trumped by the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, hate and persecution based on one’s innate human characteristics. And let’s face it, the only harm in homosexuality is the harm inflicted by societal homophobia on the LGBTI community. Homosexuality is not the cause of the health issues faced by the LGBTI community. Homophobia is.

Yes, indeed the LGBTI community does have health issues, including unnecessarily high HIV infection rates, mental health issues, higher than average rates of youth suicide and, admittedly, drug use. But have you ever wondered why that may be?

What do you think it does to the mental health of a group of people if another group of people constantly asserts they are a sick abomination, simply because of who and what they are?! Homophobia, and its societal expressions and practice, is not just a personal and social disorder and a social injustice, but also a public health scandal.

Minority groups that are alienated and excluded from mainstream society by hate, discrimination and inequality, are inherently more likely to suffer poor health outcomes primarily due to that alienation, exclusion, hate, discrimination and inequality.

What really baffles me is that the same people who are the loudest about a perceived culture of promiscuity among gay men, and the consequent dangers of certain illnesses, are the same people who then argue in the same breath that the LGBTI community should be excluded from the social structure developed to support stable, monogamous relationships between two people to the exclusion of all others … marriage. Confused much?!

What better prevention for HIV infection than the promotion of stable, long-term and monogamous relationships, by showing acceptance for same-sex relationships and legalising same-sex marriage?!

What better way to reduce LGBTI youth suicide and drug use, and improve the mental health of LGBTI people, than by reducing the hate and discrimination they have to suffer, due to the ignorant stigma society has attached to homosexuality for centuries?!

There is growing scientific evidence LGBTI acceptance and marriage equality are improving health and even the eminent New England Journal of Medicine has weighed in on the subject on 10 April 2014 when it published an article titled ‘Same-Sex Marriage — A Prescription for Better Health‘ (2014; 370:1373-1376).

The respected Australian Beyond Blue organisation also highlighted the insidious effects of homophobia on the LGBTI community, and young LGBTI people in particular:

In the meantime, so-called ‘Christian love’ is literally killing LGBTI people. On top of generating and reinforcing societal homophobia, good, loving, god-fearing Christians are literally hounding LGBTI people to death with so-called ‘conversion therapy’.

From time-to-time, some conservative fringe group will parade around a sad shell of a human being who supposedly had been ‘cured’ of his or her ‘gayness’ by so-called ‘gay conversion therapy‘, as ‘proof’ that homosexuality is a ‘correctable behaviour trait’, despite:

(Watch Dr. Robert L. Spitzer’s renunciation of his own study.)

‘Conversion therapy’ is hateful prejudice manifest, and the practice is nothing less than the malicious persecution of the LGBTI community.

It’s notable that common sense and science is starting to win out over bigotry, and thankfully there is a growing movement towards banning this insidious and potentially deadly practice.

You can read more on the subject of LGBTI rights and same-sex marriage in my very, very long-read, and deeply personal piece, titled ‘LGBTI human rights and marriage equality‘.

Epilogue – 6 April 2015

The ‘Support Memories Pizza’ Go Fund Me fundraiser was closed after collecting $842,387 to ‘support’ the O’Connor family. May the money be put to genuinely good use by the family.

I thought I would close off with a few observations about the fundraiser, and the people behind it, which indicate this wasn’t your average public fundraising, but rather a highly sophisticated conservative political media campaign.

The fundraiser was set up by Lawrence Bill Jones III. Mr Jones is a pastor of college ministry at the Antioch Christian Fellowship. He formerly served as a youth minister at the New Life Fellowship Church, and he is a speaker for The National Center for Public Policy Research, a so-called ‘conservative think tank’. I must note, I always find the phrase ‘conservative think tank’ an oxymoron, but I digress.

Mr Jones is also a contributor to ‘Dana’, a program on conservative talk show host Glenn Back’s ‘The Blaze TV’. The network’s website, the blaze.com, was fanning unequivocal support for the fundraising campaign, calling it the ‘greatest thing I’ve seen in years’.

‘Dana’ is hosted by another conservative fireball, Dana Loesch, who’s also the author of ‘Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America‘.

Quite a collection of conservative media firepower with a thorough pedigree in conservative causes, and the manipulation of their base audience …

Mr Jones had also been involved with famed conservative operator James E. O’Keefe III, and his controversial and discredited ‘Project Veritas’.

It has been claimed by theblaze.com that even members of the LGBTI community donated to the fundraiser, which is entirely possible because generally we are very good and caring people. Nevertheless, it is also very difficult to verify whether those donations were real or ‘faked’ for publicity purposes, by seasoned conservative media and political operatives with a track-record of using every trick available to create messages that appeal to their base audience.

It is also notable that a lot of donations were made anonymously. This can mean one of few things.

Sadly, some contributors may actually live in fear of being targeted by those ‘satan-worshipping lefty, liberal fag-lovers’ over their expression of ‘Christian love’.

Others may not have as much public pride in their support for these ‘good, loving, god-fearing Christians’ as they perhaps should, if they are true believers.

Alternatively, many of the anonymous donations could have been made by conservative and religious organisations keen on creating the impression of significant public support, in order to further their own religious and political agendas.

However, the suggestion of wide-spread public support for the clearly homophobic owners of Memories Pizza appears to be contradictory to every single recent poll of the American public. Polls tend to show a historical trend of growing and majority acceptance of homosexuality and marriage equality, and the increasing rejection of blatantly discriminatory laws designed to facilitate the refusal of service to the LGBTI community.

In this context it’s also worth highlighting that the fundraising page clearly shows the money collected came from 29,166 ‘contributors’. Even assuming each and every one of those is a genuine individual, that number represents 0.0091% of America’s population.

Go the 0.0091%!

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