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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Raising Money For Good - And Not For Bigotry

Does anybody remember participating in school fundraising drives when they were children?  How many of you did fundraising for your school?  What did you sell?  And did you like doing it?

I think I did school fundraising every single year that I was in elementary school (except kindergarten as we were exempt that year, and first grade where my evil teacher excluded me from taking part).  And each year, I think I sold quite a lot of stuff.  I think I was the second highest seller for 1991, 1992, 1993, and quite possibly 1994 as well.  If not, I was definitely Top 10 of the whole school.

What can I say?  I had a lot of family members back then who took the booklet to their workplaces.  I made a killing that way!

Of course, one thing I always wondered was where the money that we raised went to.  Sure, we managed to sell boxes of chocolates, Christmas ornaments, and gift bags at prices that could be considered ridiculously priced, but I never really knew how all that money we raised was spent.

Well, I would wager a guess that money was spent on a variety of things.  Upgrading playground equipment.  Paying for field trips.  Renovating classrooms.  Replacing gym equipment.  Things like that.  At least, I would hope it was that.

See, I love doing fundraising for worthy causes, and if I know that the money is doing a lot of good for a lot of people, then it is all worth it in the end.  It's why I've done several charity walks for children's hospitals and cancer research.  It's fun to take part in, and the money raised definitely goes to a wonderful cause.

But what happens when the cause that a fundraiser is raising money for is less than noble?

Well, I'm sure that you've heard about what has been happening in the state of Indiana right now.  Indiana is one of two states (the other one being Arkansas) that is entertaining the possibility of enforcing a "religious freedom" bill, which if passed would give individuals and businesses the right to assert that their exercise of religion has been  - or is likely to be - burdened as a defense in legal proceedings.

But one pizzeria in Indiana has taken the law to mean something else.  Something really discriminatory, unfair, and childish as far as I'm concerned.

You see, some people see this religious freedom bill as the very thing they need to refuse service to anybody who does not share the same belief system that they do.  And sadly for many people who identify themselves as a part of the LGBTQ community (that would be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning people), they find themselves as unfair targets of this potential law.

Such is the case of said pizzeria (who I will for the sake of argument not list the name of, as I feel that they have gotten enough publicity), who declared that they would no longer cater any gay or lesbian wedding ceremonies, as they feel that doing so would go against their beliefs that marriage is between one man and woman only.

Now, let's get a few things straight.

I don't agree with the pizza place's stance at all.  I believe that a person is meant to fall in love with a person that they feel is their best fit.  If it happens to be a person of the opposite gender, fantastic.  If it happens to be a person of the same gender, fantastic.  Love is love.  And I believe that everyone has the right to have a wedding and a marriage with someone who they have fallen head over heels in love with no matter who they are.  It's just that simple.

Secondly, who the hell would cater a wedding reception with pepperoni pizza in the first place?!?  No wedding that I have ever been to has ever served pizza.  I suppose they may get a pass if some of the pizza toppings were lobster, caviar, or tomato sauce flown in from the middle of Italy.  But really, catering a wedding with pizza?  Why not just have the wedding reception at Pizza Hut?

And even if I did get married and my spouse and I had some love affair with pizza and wanted to have a "make-your-own-pizza" bar to add a kitsch factor to the reception - that pizza place would be the last place I would want to cater my wedding.  I don't support businesses who willingly single out and exclude people just because of something that they can't and shouldn't change about themselves.

Bottom line, the pizzeria was wrong, as are the people who believe that this law grants them the right to be completely homophobic. 

Well, apparently millions of other people thought the same way, and after leaving behind reviews on Yelp attacking them, taunting them on social media, and hurling unpleasant comments at the owners of the pizzeria, they were forced to close up shop.

I mean, I don't see how anyone can alienate a significant part of the global population and have it be a good thing.  Excluding customers is NEVER good business practice.

Oh, but the owners themselves state that they had every right to do so because they are a Christian business and they have the right to turn away anyone who goes against that belief.  I wonder if they served seafood pizzas on Sundays, or turned away customers who were dressed in a cotton shirt and polyester jacket?

Perhaps the most damning statement that sealed the deal of this pizzeria was the statement made by one of the owners of the pizzeria, which read as follows. 

"That lifestyle is something they choose.  I choose to be heterosexual.  They choose to be homosexual.  Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?"

Well, how about because most of us know that being gay or straight is something that none of us "choose" to be.  We are who we are because we are born this way.  Just ask Lady Gaga.

Or better still, just ask the LGBTQ community themselves.  With the bullying and abuse that they have sustained for decades just for identifying as LGBTQ, how can anybody say that they chose a life of being denied rights and being constantly abused and ridiculed for it? 

Well, here's the continuation of this story, and it goes back to the first paragraph that I wrote about it.  Apparently with the closure of the pizzeria, a group of people decided to start up a fundraising group on the popular fundraising website "".  They actually started up a fundraising group to raise money for the pizzeria owners who took a bigoted stand and had to close their business as a result of it.  At last count, this fundraising effort has raised - get this - $840,000!

That's right.  People donated almost a million dollars to the pizzeria that basically told people who were LGBTQ that they were not welcome.

That's disgusting.

And what's really frustrating about the whole thing is reading some of the comments that people have left behind when they made those donations.  I was expecting to see some comments about how the pizza was the best in Indiana, and certainly some people did donate because of the quality of the product and not necessarily commenting on the public relations nightmare that the scandal initially kicked off.  That I can respect.

Comments from people who have never eaten one slice of pizza from the establishment and who are only donating to "preserve Christian values" or "stick it to the liberal media".  Yeah, just shut up.  Seriously, just shut up.

As far as I am concerned, none of the people who are responsible for the pizza fundraiser have any idea what it is like to be true Christians.  They're the type of people who get dressed up in their grey suits and pastel coloured Easter Sunday dresses to listen to some guy read a Bible for three hours, thinking that is enough to make them feel Christian - when the other six days of the week, they snub anybody who thinks differently from them.  They preach a good game about being true Christians, but they never seem to do any practicing about it.

And in regards to the comments about sticking it to the liberal media?  Hell, I find both extremely left wing and extremely right wing news to be equally idiotic.  I'm a fence sitter on the political spectrum, and happy to be that way.

And for those of you who donated to this pizzeria, ask yourself this question.  If you really wanted to display true Christianity and be kind and giving to each other, why not take that money and donate it to local food banks or local children's charities, or some other organization that would actually use the money to help people?  Do we even have any guarantee that the pizza shop owners would use the money to reopen their business or would they just keep it all for themselves?  Who needs to go on "Survivor" to win a million bucks when you can just make an offensive comment and have a bunch of ill-informed people just give you a million dollars for speaking your mind?

When did online fundraising become another weapon to humiliate an entire group of people?

Fortunately, some people are fighting back against this.  One Chicago based sausage shop, Big Guys Sausage Stand, is taking a stand against bigotry by posting their own fundraising effort (which you can click on HERE to donate to - provided you have a major credit card).  They're up front about all the money going to charity, and unlike the unnamed pizza shop, they want to have this fundraiser make everybody feel welcome at his shop.  As owner Brendan O'Connor states;

"At Big Guys Sausage Stand, we use a lot of ingredients to make great homemade sandwiches, but one ingredient we never use is hate. You might get served by a Haitian, or Mexican or even a Rastafarian guy, but no matter who serves you they will do so without condemnation or scorn."

And for those of you who want to make the claim that I am taking a stand...well, you're right.  I don't believe in bullying anyone for being who they are.  That's why I'm happy to post the link to this fundraising effort rather than the other one.

And besides.  I've made no secret about my stance on religious beliefs.  It's awesome if you have them, but don't use them as justification to attack somebody else.  I can't stand people who hide behind a cloak of pseudo-Christianity as an excuse to be a complete jerk when the church doors close behind them.

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