RFRA: How A Local TV Station Ruined A Business And Threatened A Family’s Safety

Derek Hunter | Contributor

There were no complaints nor denials of service to anyone ever, but because of their religious beliefs, Memories Pizza stands in ruin and the family who owns it has had their lives threatened countless times. How did the O’Connor family, owners of Memories, find themselves in this situation? They were honest with a reporter in search of a story to fit the media’s narrative.

Alyssa Marino is a reporter with ABC 57 News in South Bend, Indiana. With her state in the center of a hurricane over religious freedom, Marino must’ve thought she’d had a coup – a devout Christian business owner willing to speak on camera about their religious beliefs and how it impacts the operations of that business.

The issue of gay marriage is not one that generally comes up when talking about a pizzeria. Neither is straight marriage, for that matter. Local pizza joints aren’t generally hotbeds of wedding receptions. Yet, Marino found herself wandering into Memories Pizza to get the unsuspecting owners to weigh in on an emotional issue which has never come up in the course of the business’s nearly 10 year existence.

When owner Crystal O’Connor told Marino, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she had to know she’d struck gold.

Marino had her headline, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.” O’Connor’s quote was in paragraph three. The chyron on the screen for the report read, “Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples.”

Buried in the second to last paragraph of Marino’s report:

The O’Connor family told ABC 57 news that if a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion came in to the restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service.

So how did Marino find Memories Pizza? Brian Dorman, the ABC 57 anchor, opened the broadcast by saying, “We went into small towns tonight for reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We found one business just 20 miles away from a welcoming South Bend with a much different view.” (Emphasis added.)

For Dorman’s introduction and the fact that Memories Pizza is the only business featured in the story, it gives the impression that the ABC 57 news team had an idea of what they were looking for, and they found it.

The Daily Caller reached out to Marino to ask how many businesses she approached for reaction to the law and whether or not she was tipped off to the fact that the O’Connor family are devout Christians. She did not answer our inquiry.

She did, however, respond to a man named Marc Goldberg on Twitter. He asked her how Memories managed to come to her attention, and if they’d ever denied anyone service for their wedding.

Marino’s response was, “I just walked into their shop and asked how they feel. They’ve never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.”

So a hypothetical situation that has never occurred was enough for Marino to do a remote outside the business on the ABC 57 nightly newscast and make citizens who’ve never been accused of harming anyone the top story of the night.

The story went viral, as it obviously would, and Memories Pizza is now closed and the O’Connor family is receiving death threats. Crystal O’Connor told Marino, “We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.” She was right on the first part, her and her family are learning, thanks to “journalists” like Alyssa Marino and Brian Dorman, that she was woefully wrong on the second part.

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