They refused to bake a cake. They were sued. Their business was forced to close. And now the Oregon Court of Appeals has upheld a decision to force the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to pay a whopping $135,000 fine.
In 2013, citing their Christian beliefs regarding gay marriage, Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries claimed the bakers had violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 and ordered the couple to pay $135,000 in damages for emotional distress.
The Kleins appealed the fine, arguing that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws by targeting them for their Christian beliefs and violated their rights to religious freedom, due process, and free speech.
The appellate court ruled Thursday that Avakian did not target them for their religious beliefs and that statements he had made before deciding the case did not show a lack of impartiality, the Seattle Times reports. The court ruled that it is insufficient to assert that the Kleins’ cakes are art protected under the First Amendment.
Earlier this year, Melissa Klein told CBN News, “My cakes were my canvas. I sketched and custom designed each cake to fit each couple perfectly.”
“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food,” the opinion says.
“Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the First Liberty Institute which represents the Kleins. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”
Throughout the appeals process, the Kleins suffered harassment for their decision, received death threats, and were forced to close their business’ storefront after protests. For a time, they attempted to run the business online from their home, powered by donations. But eventually, that business closed too.
“We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build,” Melissa Klein said. “I loved my shop. It meant everything to me and losing it has been so hard for me and my family.”
The Kleins have already paid the fine, but the $135,000 payment was held in escrow until the appellate court rendered its final decision.
The Kleins have been bullied by the government and activists for refusing to make their services available in a way that violates their faith.
The message is clear. In the state of Oregon, you do not have the right to operate a business according to your religious beliefs.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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