WALKERTON, Ind. --- Memories Pizza in Walkerton has been heavily talked about over the last week for going on record as the first business in Indiana to publicly say they would not cater a gay wedding if asked to. After thousands of negative comments and threats, a GoFundMe account was created by members of "The Dana Show" on The Blaze Network just before they were to go on air to interview Crystal O'Connor.
"It started off as a joke," Lawrence B. Jones III, a contributor on "The Dana Show" said. "Maybe we should set up one of those GoFundMe accounts. We were in the makeup room discussing it and Dana [Loesch] was like, 'Go for it.' So I was the person to physically create the GoFundMe account."
And it took off. Jones set a modest goal of $25,000 for the account. One hour later, they had surpassed that and after 48 hours, the fundraiser capped out at $842,592 in what Jones says is the second largest GoFundMe fundraiser of all-time. And even though there have been national arguments about straight and LGBT beliefs, he says this is just about protecting freedom.
"We felt like, once again, because people spoke out, freedom was once again thrown away," Jones said. "People were getting away with suggesting to burn the shop down and we were really fed up with it. We said you know what? Let's personally do something."
So the account started to balloon with donations from all across the country. Donations were pouring in the tens of thousands of dollars and then hundreds of thousands.
"But the thing about this issue, this is not a conservative, democrat, liberal or progressive issue," Jones said. "This is just about freedom. This is an American issue. We should all protect free speech. And freedom of private businesses. I believe we have a moral obligation when Americans are being attacked, when freedom is being attacked to stand up. I believe when we get so caught up in our journalistic, what we'll call ethics, that we can't stand up when something is blatantly wrong, I believe that we have gone too far. I believe that we have lost the message and I believe that all of us, collectively, not the network, me, Dana, Chris and our producers, we came together and said this is the right thing to do."
While it's been a hotly contested argument, Jones says they were supporting the O'Connor's right to stand up for what they believe in and they received backlash for that support. Jones says he and his co-workers who decided to start this campaign, coincidentally are Christians. However, this fight had nothing to do with sexual orientation.
"It's not about gay and straight," Jones said. "We've had gays give to this fund, that sent us emails saying thank you. We all have gay friends. We love our gay brothers and sisters. But it's about freedom and when that freedom is taken away from people, I don't know what we can do as a country, but other than to do something like this to really let our voices be heard. I believe people across this country people are saying look; we're putting our money where our mouth is, and we're going to do whatever we can, straight and gay, and I think that's pretty remarkable."
Since the O'Connor's stance was made public, things have settled down but not before Jones and his co-workers received similar threats the O'Connor's had to deal with.
"We've had to increase security," Jones said. "They were sending death threats towards me and my mother. All of our hosts were getting threats. This stuff has really gotten ridiculous. Just from us responding and saying, 'Let's just create the account.' The backlash has been unbelievable."
But they did not retaliate.
"We stayed on message," Jones said. "We just decided that we were not going to bash gays, we were going to continue to say we love our gay brothers and sisters. We were going to have that message of Christ. We wanted to make sure that we weren't being those Christians that were throwing rocks at people. We wanted to show love despite whatever attacks were going towards us."
Jones has done more than just create the GoFundMe account; he donated as well. He says it would be pathetic of him to ask people to donate but not give himself.
"It's the right thing to do. You don't have to take political sides on this issue. Some things are just right and wrong and man, if we don't protect people's freedom then I don't know what I can say about us as a country."