Friday, April 3, 2015

What If Muslims Made Pizza?

What a curious day it was.

A teacher in Elkhart, Indiana was just suspended (amazingly, not yet fired or arrested, as I write this) for sending out a tweet asking people to join her in burning down Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana.  The now-former teacher and sports coach (and not irrelevantly, lesbian), named Jess Dooley, tweeted out the following:

Who's going to Walkerton, Indiana to burn down #memoriespizza w me?  Agree with #FreedomofReligion bill?

OK, so we all know what is going on here, I assume.  The State of Indiana joined half the other states in passing a copy of the bill passed by Congress and signed enthusiastically by Bill Clinton in 1993.  The actual purpose of the bill, in both cases, was to set the ground rules for legal (judicial) handling of cases where people practicing their religion wanted to claim their right to do so, and the applicable governmental entity then had court procedural guidelines for how to show a compelling reason why they should not.

The Indiana law was quite similar to most, extending the judicial process to handling cases for corporations as well as individuals, though the corporations would have to be religious in nature or owned by a homogeneously-believing group, like Hobby Lobby is.

Nowhere in either law did it speak to discriminatory practices, and in the congressional (Federal) version, the passage was nearly unanimous.  Everyone, Democrats too, thought it was a good idea, right up as high as Hillary Clinton's husband, who signed it enthusiastically.

So ... pizza?  Well, yes.  Apparently the young lady who owns or co-owns the Walkerton pizzeria was asked by a reporter trolling about town, about what she would do if she had to provide pizza for a gay wedding.  No, she answered, she wouldn't, because the owners' Christian views regarding marriage being between a man and a woman would prevent them from doing so.  She would certainly serve them, but not cater a gay wedding.

So let's set aside a few things for the nonce:
1. One wonders who decided to ask a pizzeria in a little town about catering a gay wedding when not even a straight couple had ever asked them to cater one.
2. A gay couple should not want to buy pizza from a shop that doesn't support their marrying.
3. The law didn't actually allow them not to sell to the mythical couple, it just set the judicial process and standards of proof needed, in case they were sued for practicing their beliefs in their business.
4. The law, as amended yesterday, proactively forbids them from discriminating anyway.
5. Arson is not an appropriate response to, well, pretty much anything.
6. OK, really ... who has pizza at a wedding?
7. Worse ... not to stereotype or anything, but what self-respecting gay couple would have pizza at their wedding?

Yes, let's set all that aside, difficult though it may be.

I did a text search to find how many pizza parlors appeared to be owned by people with names that would suggest the owners are Muslims.  Let's just say that there are quite a few, and that's just pizza.  Obviously lots of Middle Eastern restaurants are owned by Muslims and, equally obviously, many of them cater.  I know, because I really like Middle Eastern food.  Indian, not so much, but Middle Eastern absolutely.

I don't want to throw out a strawman argument and ask why the person who brought a camera crew to Walkerton, Indiana asked a Christian pizzeria-owning family, and not a Muslim pizzeria-owning family.

But the fact is, they didn't.  And I've news for the reporter who stirred the pot -- not only do Muslims not believe in gay marriage, but being gay in the Middle East can get you stoned, and not in the smoky, Tommy Chong sense.  Did it even occur to her to go find a Muslim restaurant and ask the exact same question?

How might that have looked if the reporter had done so?  We know that the current administration would have a fit, because they're trying to make nice-nice with the Iranian mullahs, and trying to placate the Sunni side of Islam as well -- all at the expense of any relationship with our apparently former friend in Israel (where being Muslim is actually OK, and being gay won't get you stoned).

Of course, the law had nothing to do with discrimination, as the reporter knew.  Had a gay couple actually gone to Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana to cater their wedding (OK, it sounds pretty silly when I read what I just wrote, too) and been declined, the pizzeria could have to defend themselves in court.  The law would not have "helped" them, it just defines the parameters for demonstrating a case.

Anyway, I'm guessing that Jess Dooley of Elkhart, Indiana, is not tweeting out an invitation to head to Riyadh, where gays like she is are actually stoned, to burn down a mosque that can be assumed to deny access for gay weddings.  No, her ire and her Molotov cocktails -- and, by the way, those of the South Bend TV station that apparently sent their reporter knocking on doors until she got some young innocent willing to stand behind her beliefs -- are reserved for Christian couples who wouldn't harm a fly.

Of course, if Jess Dooley wants a pizza, she can just head on down to a Muslim-owned 'za place.  They'll serve her, even though she is a lesbian.  They might not be as inclined to cater her wedding, though.

But we won't know if we don't ask.

Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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