The co-owner of Today’s Jewellers, under fire for displaying posters in the store opposing same-sex marriage, says he has received hundreds of hate messages, including some threats.
Store's posters opposing same-sex marriage denounced
Esau Jardon also says the message behind the poster people are talking about — which reads “The Sanctity of Marriage IS UNDER ATTACK; Help Keep Marriage Between Man & Woman” — is being misunderstood.
“It doesn’t even mention homosexuals or a specific group within that. It could talk about, for example, the sanctity of the traditional family. There are other forms of heterosexuals that are practising that (my family doesn’t) believe in, that we think the traditional form is the best way. For example, if people are cohabitating,” he said.
He told The Telegram that while he believes in a traditional family, he does not believe same-sex marriage should be illegal.
He said he wanted to make it clear that the store owners don’t hate individuals or think they’re bad people; they just don’t believe in certain “behaviours.”
The controversy over the poster heated up after a same-sex couple who had bought a custom engagement ring from the store found out about the messages on display and asked for a refund — which he agreed to give them Monday afternoon.
“The ring symbolizes love, and just knowing that that’s the sign that they have up there — every time I look at my ring, yes, I’ll think of us, clearly, but also everything we went through. So I don’t want my ring from there anymore. I just want my refund,” Nicole White told The Telegram Saturday.
She and her fiancée, Pam Renouf, don’t mind doing business with people whose beliefs are different from their own, she said, but it’s disrespectful to display the message in a business.
Jardon said the women were very nice to work with, and he believes the media attention surrounding the issue is getting some things confused.
“They’ve never been disrespectful in any way, or rude or hateful towards us, and we’ve done exactly the same. We’ve never, ever disrespected them in any way in that sense, directly. I think there seems to be a confusion,” he said.
He said he was worried giving a refund, or taking the posters down, would send a message that it’s possible to bully people in Canada for expressing their beliefs. But Monday afternoon he sent an email to The Telegram saying they have decided to give the refund after all.
Since the story emerged Saturday, Jardon, who owns the store with his brother, said he has been bullied, intimidated and even threatened.
“One of the reasons my family chose to move to Canada was the rights that it offered, the freedom of religion and freedom of speech, both of which at the time seemed to be very limited in Mexico,” he said.
“However, due to posting our religious beliefs, many people in Newfoundland want us to shut down business — that’s what they’ve been telling us.”
He said some threats came with names and others were anonymous.
“One of them states that ‘you better give them the money back or you will be very, very sorry,’” he said.
Taylor Stocks, co-chair internal of St. John’s Pride, said the group doesn’t condone threats.
“I think there’s a difference between calling someone out on discrimination and saying that their personal safety should be at risk for that,” Stocks said. “So while Pride definitely is on the side of calling out discrimination when we see it, at no point do we support resorting to threats of a person as a reasonable alternative.”
Stocks said a better approach is to open up a conversation in the LGBT community.
“We do have our Out in Faith discussion every year during pride where we’re looking at specifically this, and what it means for someone to hold faith and be supportive of the community at the same time. So I think discussions that are focusing on the reasons why this person was sort of publicizing the view like they did is more fruitful than simply calling names.”
Jardon said they don’t plan on pursuing legal action at this time, but if things continue, it’s something they may consider.
“The threats that we have, yes, those are illegal, and I could pursue the police. But moreso, the people that are talking, they’ve hurt our business. And one of those things is called defamation of character in Canada, so by them hurting our business, we can, in turn, sue them because they can’t prove that what we did was illegal, because they’re claiming that it was a hateful crime.”
Jardon said the store’s Facebook page received so many angry messages they removed it.
On a new Facebook page under the name Today’s Jewellers, the controversial poster is used as the cover photo and this message is posted: “Welcome to our new Facebook Page. We had to take the old one down because anti-Christians were attacking it.”
Another post by the business, which shows a photo of a ring, reads: “Our new French language collection would look beautiful on the finger of a woman getting married to a man.”
A personal account under the name Jardon Esau showed a picture of skeletons burning under the caption “WE SUPPORT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.”
Jardon told The Telegram in an email that he was not behind the posts: “someone has posted that illegally to hurt us, we already reported it to Facebook. Our facebook page of todays jewellers is down to avoid anything like this. So many people are now attacking us directly,” he said.
“We understand now that these attacks have nothing to do with Nicole or Pam they have been really nice and just want their money back to go buy elsewhere so we are giving them their money back.”
Jardon said he is trying to get hold of the couple.