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Online campaign raises over $841,000 for Christian pizzeria

Christie O’Connor, co-owner of Memories Pizza, was forced to close her business following threats from same-sex marriage advocates.

The Christian, family owned pizzeria in Indiana forced to close after it received death threats from the “gay marriage” movement has raised more than $841,000 in three days through an online GoFundMe account.

It took the account set up for business owners Kevin and Christie O’Connor of Memories Pizza only 20 hours to eclipse its goal of $200,000.

The O’Connors, who were asked by a reporter how they would respond to the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said: “We would serve gay individuals at the restaurant, but due to religious beliefs, would decline to cater a same-sex wedding.”

That was enough to bring an avalanche of pressure crashing down on the small-town pizzeria owners, including threats to harm or kill the family.

Jess Dooley, a female golf coach at Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, threatened in a tweet to burn the family’s restaurant down, saying: “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?”

The school suspended Dooley for making the threatening tweet but thus far no charges have been filed against her by the prosecutor. Local police in Walkerton told WND that they have sent charges to the prosecutor’s office but the final decision lies with the prosecutor.

“Questions have arisen based upon Jessica Dooley’s twitter comment… The Walkerton Police Department has finished an investigation into this statement and submitted a case to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office for possible charging of harassment, intimidation, and threats,” said Walkerton Assistant Police Chief Charles Kulp in a statement emailed to WND.

Repeated calls to prosecutor Ken Cotter’s office Friday morning were met with a busy signal.

Jess Dooley is a girls golf coach at Concord High School in Indiana.

Fearing for their safety, the O’Connors shut their doors.

In an interview with the Blaze, Christie O’Connor said the family was considering leaving Walkerton, and possibly even the state of Indiana.

“I don’t know if we will reopen, or if we can,” she said. “We’re in hiding basically. Yep. Staying in the house.”

But in a later interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, Christie O’Connor said she was reconsidering the decision to close and was hoping to reopen after the uproar over her comments died down.

She said news reports about their comments were quickly distorted. Speaking up for her faith destroyed their family’s income in a matter of hours.

“I just got an apartment, and this was my income to keep that apartment going. I am suspended on another job that I have until this is cleared up,” Christie said, her voice hesitating. “So I have absolutely no income coming in, at all.”

Watch interview with Christie O’Connor below:

Christie O’Connor said she hasn’t talked to many of her customers yet, but the ones who have reached out to her have been “very supportive of us.”

A Facebook page reportedly home to thousands of other threats against the pizza shop and its owners was “unavailable” on Thursday. But a Yelp page formed to protest the owners was still operational.

One commenter wrote: “Well I just can’t go here or would ever because they engage in discriminatory practices based on I guess perception & ‘religious belief.’”

Blaze reporter Dana Loesch said she could hardly believe that in 2015 “we would be dealing with such persecution like this, just because someone said that they want to stand up for a tenent of their faith. It’s awful to see.”

That was why the Blaze set up the account at GoFundMe/memoriespizza.com, she said, apparently surprising Christie O’Connor with the news of financial support.

“We know how a lot of this backlash is, and we know how zealous some people are in terms of depriving someone of their livelihood or ruining their lives simply because they cannot tolerate their Christian faith, so we set up a GoFundMe account where people can go and they can make a donation, because nobody should have to suffer, or suffer alone, for their faith for standing up for Christian principles,” Loesch said. “We wanted to make you sure are aware of that as well, Crystal. God bless you for being fearless, and for standing up for your faith. And as Christ said, ‘If they persecute you, remember they came for me first,’ so you did nothing wrong here. You did nothing wrong.”