The long-suffering husband and wife who lost their entire livelihood for their religious beliefs are finally taking their case to court.
Aaron and Melissa Klein first made national news in 2013 when they told a lesbian couple that they could not materially contribute to their same sex wedding ceremony by providing a cake. The couple sued, and the State of Oregon condemned the Klein’s actions with a massive $135,000 fine.
Subsequently, the Kleins were forced to shut down their bakery, “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” and had all of their savings forcibly seized by the state. In a disturbingly symbolic act, the state of Oregon even cleaned out a special bank account that the Kleins had set up specifically for their church tithe.
I.e. Caesar took money meant for God in the name of “equality” and “tolerance,” with the result of financially ruining a Christian family because they held religious beliefs shared by 99% percent of world religions until just a few years ago.
“Oh brave new world…”
To prove that their actions were driven by religious conviction, rather than “anti-gay” animus, the Kleins even went so far as to send cakes that said, “We really do love you” to pro-LGBT organizations last August. Nonetheless, the message from the left towards the Kleins has been riddled with intolerance, vitriol and hate.
“The past three years have been devastating,” said Melissa Klein, former owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, reads a press release. “Just because we couldn’t participate in an event that violated our religious beliefs, we lost our business. We were committed to serving everyone regardless of their circumstances at all other times.”
Now, the Kleins will have their case heard by the court.
The Evangelical Christian couple will be represented by Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel for President George H.W. Bush as well as the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, which calls the case, “a battle for the Oregon couple’s religious freedom.”
“The government should never force people to violate their conscience or celebrate causes they don’t believe in,” reads a statement by Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute. “As the Kleins’ new appellate team, we are committed to fighting for their First Amendment freedoms of religious liberty and free expression.”
At a campaign stop on Sunday Republican presidential candidate John Kasich dismissed religious freedom claims similar to the Kleins, using the same sort of argument as some proponents of the Oregon law.
"I think frankly, our churches should not be forced to do anything that's not consistent with them. But if you're a cupcake maker and somebody wants a cupcake, make them a cupcake,” said the Ohio Governor. "Let's not have a big lawsuit or argument over all this stuff -- move on. The next thing, you know, they might be saying, if you're divorced you shouldn't get a cupcake.”
While Oregon does not have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act or similar legislation on the books, experts from First Liberty tell CR that the case will focus elsewhere legally, primarily on the “due process” protections offered by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
In an email, Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for FLI, told CR that the Kleins
Aaron and Melissa Klein’s case will be heard by the Oregon Court of Appeals, with oral arguments expected to take place later this year, according to the press release.
This story has been updated since its publication.
Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religion and culture. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate has previously written for World Magazine, The Washington Times, Catholic News Service, Patheos, Ethika Politika, and The Christian Post. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.