On July 8, Shannon Kennedy and Julie Ann Samanas went to W.W. Bridal Boutique in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to buy a wedding dress. When filling out the requisite form, they crossed out “groom,” and replaced it with “bride.”
After a female employee saw the form, Kennedy recalls the woman saying: “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re Christian and we don’t believe in that; our faith doesn’t let us believe in that.”
I'll gladly take my money some where else, when a business won't allow you to try on wedding dresses simply because you're gay. Join me in 2017 #discrimnationisnotcool #WWbridalbloomsburg they removed the option to tag in to the shop, WW Bridal.
Co-owner Victoria Miller offered a statement to Huffington Post, which reads:
We have provided formalwear for our customers from all walks of life, including the LGBTQ community. We have always served everyone with respect and dignity. …It is just this event, a same-sex marriage, which we cannot participate in due to our personal convictions. …We simply ask that we be given the same ability to live our lives according to our convictions.
The shop has faced similar controversy in the past.
In 2014, Miller declined an appointment for a same-sex couple, reports Huffington Post. Miller stated at the time: “We feel we have to answer to God for what we do … and providing those two girls dresses for a sanctified marriage would break God’s law.”
Free to Believe writes that the owners of W.W. Bridal “were stunned at the number of death threats they had received” after declining the appointment. The fervor was so great that “members of the Bloomsburg Town Council proposed asking the town solicitor to draft an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance, but after a community meeting that drew both support and opposition, voted 4-3 against moving forward with such a measure,” according to PGN.
The Daily Wire spoke with Rich Penkoski, who runs Warriors for Christ. He has been helping the folks at W.W. Bridal on social media since the incident on July 8. The owners even made him an admin for their Facebook page.
Penkoski claims that the couple “targeted” W.W. Bridal because they were Christians:
This particular couple targeted them because of what happened in 2014. They knew they were a Christian-owned business. There are two bridal shops in the town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The couple went to the other bridal shop first, realized that they were not the Christian one, then went to W.W. Bridal. They drove 60 miles out of their way to go to this bridal shop they had never heard of. It was done on purpose.
He added that the incident has had a negative effect on the family-owned wedding business, and that the owners have even received death threats:
They didn't just walk away. If you look at her [Julie Ann Samanas'] Facebook page, she actually invited a horde of trolls to come on there and downrate their business on Google and Yelp to one star. They are getting death threats; they had to take their contact information off of their webpage. It's been pretty brutal for them.
Penkoski sent us several of the death threats the shop owners have received:
One voicemail was particularly chilling. A male voice stated:
You stupid f****** bigots. We are coming for you and your families. We are going to tear your shop apart and make you feel as bad as you made people feel, you f****** bigot scum. You're going down and so are all of your employees and their families. You're done.
Shannon Kennedy, however, disputes Penkoski’s claims, telling The Daily Wire that they had no knowledge of the bridal shop's history:
We absolutely did not target them. I grew up about twenty minutes away from there, and we were in town for a family member’s baby shower. We had made appointments at three different bridal shops and went to all three. They were the second one we went to. The first and third were very accommodating and Julie tried on many dresses.
We had no idea what we were walking into when we went into that store. I had slightly remembered hearing about a similar story years ago, but I didn't remember the name and honestly didn't even think to research because I didn't think they'd still be in business. I had been living in Philadelphia at that time and for ten years before Julie and I had met, so I was not familiar with the store and their beliefs. We're not the kind of people to intentionally go out to seek problems or discrimination.
When asked if she condemns the death threats, Kennedy responded: “Absolutely.”
A Facebook page called "Boycott W.W. Bridal Boutique" has been set up, encouraging people to contact the shop and leave bad reviews for their "hateful and discriminatory business practices." The boycott page has 102 "likes," and is allegedly unaffiliated with Kennedy and Samanas.
This is a lot to process, but here's what should have happened on July 8. When a Christian bridal shop politely declined to sell a wedding dress to a same-sex couple because doing so would violate their deeply-held religious beliefs, the couple should have left without incident. They should have given their money to another, non-discriminatory business, and aired their grievances on social media.
Not unexpectedly, that's not exactly what happened. We cannot know who is telling the truth. We cannot know if the couple targeted the boutique because of the owners' faith. We cannot read the hearts and minds of others. We can only know what we are told, and in this case, the stories are contradictory.
Here's what we do know — we are living in a time in which Christians business owners are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. If a baker won’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, he will be sued; if a florist won’t offer her services for a same-sex wedding, she will be sued; if a photographer won't photograph a same-sex wedding, he will be sued. The list goes on and on. Businesses having to close up shop under penalty of massive fines is becoming the norm.
What should be a free market is becoming one in which you cannot participate if you have religious beliefs that run contrary to current societal norms.