Iowans Betty and Dick Odgaard, formerly purveyors of various wedding-related services at The Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, began speaking as God this week --- on a billboard at Durant, Oklahoma, bless their hearts. If fund-raising goes as planned, there will be 999 more of these messages from the Almighty along the nation's roadways as time passes.
I'm not sure what the going rate for a billboard is these days, but that will represent a substantial investment by donors to God's Original Design Ministry, launched earlier this year by the Odgaards.
The couple, who had operated for some years out of a former Lutheran Church that they had purchased in Grimes, ran afoul of Iowa's public accommodations laws during 2013. Until then, the Gortz Haus had offered everything needed for a wedding --- from art, invitations and flowers through catering to the venue itself, rechristened a "bistro."
Then a couple of guys who planned to be married, Lee Stafford and Jared Ellars, wandered in to inquire about services --- not knowing that their impending union most definitely would not be smiled upon by the Odgaards or their god.
They were turned away, filed a complaint and the Odgaards settled out of court --- for $5,000. Rather than risk further difficulties with the law, the couple ceased to offer their building as a venue and that cut into the profits. What remained of the business closed officially on Friday. They are now Christian martyrs, celebrated by Ted Cruz and others.
Unfortunately, the Odgaards apparently are not especially affluent martyrs --- they overlooked the crowdfunding potential exploited so effectively by Oregon's Aaron and Melissa Klein, who raised some $350,000 after declining to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple --- as well as sharing the couple's home address and other personal information --- and were hit with a whopping $135,000 fine.
I imagine that God's Original Design Ministry will go a long ways toward easing the Odgaards' financial pain. And in related news, the couple plan to reopen their building as a church. Most likely, grand opening of the Christian Goetz Haus Gallery (Art & Framing, Flower Shoppe and Bistro) won't be far behind.
Now you can't really blame these folks for doing what they needed to do to remain afloat financially.
It's just not clear that anyone is going to love Jesus more as a result.