Attacks on Christians in the U.S. are ramping-up, not dying down, according to a pastor helping a bridal shop weather the fury generated from their refusal to take part in a same-sex wedding.
Pastor Rich Penkoski now handles the Facebook page belonging to W.W. Bridal Boutique as a way to shield the store's owners from frightening threats and hateful language directed at them.
The shop decided to once again refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding. The Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania store made a similar decision three years ago.
"They went through this in 2014 but this one for some reason is getting worse," Penkoski told The Christian Post. "They got a message from somebody today named Danny that said they have a 'few surprises' for them. That is kind of what prompted this."
Penkoski shared the actual voice mail which included intimidation aimed at the owner's loved ones.
"You stupid f****** bigots. We are coming for you and your family," a man declared in the voice mail. "We are going to tear your shop apart and make you feel as bad as you have made people feel. You f****** bigot scum. You are going down and so is all your employees and their families. You're done!"
The store has temporarily closed its doors and is only seeing customers by appointment. They are hoping this backlash will "blow over" in time, as it did three years ago, and they can once again open for business as usual.
This time around, the outrage began shortly after July 8th, 2017, when a lesbian couple drove about an hour to the store. They were looking for a dress for one of the women to wear in a March wedding.
The store reportedly provided the couple a form to fill out with, among other things, details about the wedding. The couple allegedly crossed-out the word, "groom" and wrote "bride" instead, indicating two brides.
The customers were told the store could not accommodate their request for a dress for a same-sex wedding. The owner explained their Christian faith states that same-sex marriage is a violation of God's law, and that providing a dress for such an event would force the store owners to behave in a way that betrays their religious beliefs.
The same-sex couple took to Facebook to discuss how they were denied service and tagged W.W. Bridal in the post.
According to the Philadelphia Gay News, the store initially responded by posting to their Facebook page, "The owners of W.W. Bridal Boutique reserve the rights afforded to them by the First Amendment of the Constitution to live out our lives according to our faith. 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' We will continue to serve our customers based on the tenets of our faith." However, the post is no longer on the page.
Pennsylvania has no statewide law prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In defense of their actions, the store's co-owner Victoria Miller told the Huffington Post where the shop draws the line.
"We have provided formal wear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity," Miller wrote in an email. "It is just this event, a same-sex marriage, which we cannot participate in due to our personal convictions."
Miller added, "We simply ask that we be given the same ability to live our lives according to our convictions."