An appeal has been filed with the Oregon Supreme Court over the state’s imposition of a $135,000 fine against Aaron and Melissa Klein for refusing to provide their cake artistry to a same-sex duo.
Much has changed since a state official prejudged their “offense” before he had the facts, threatened them with “rehabilitation,” announced the massive penalty and stood by while social media users threatened the lives of the bakery owners children.
For one thing, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected within weeks to announce its decision in a similar case brought by Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado.
In addition, the court refused to intervene in a Mississippi case, which left standing a state law that protects from retaliation or punishment people who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that gender is determined at birth and that sex is reserved for married couples.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the complainants didn’t have standing, meaning they didn’t suffer a specific injury.
The complaint was brought against the state’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, signed into law in April 2016.
A federal district court blocked the law’s implementation, but the Fifth Circuit allowed it to take effect, and now the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene leaves the law in place.
The law “protects citizens, public servants, businesses, and religious institutions from government reprisal for operating publicly according to their belief that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman, that sexual activity is intended only for married couples, and that one’s biological sex cannot change.”
Retaliation and punishment is something Aaron and Melissa Klein, who owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa before the state of Oregon punished them, know all about.
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A social media comment said: “We hope your children get cancer and die I hope you have the worst luck and the worst life and all your wildest nightmares come true. You are worthless.”
Their appeal insists that the government should protect all beliefs equally.
“Aaron and Melissa Klein are entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free expression,” said Kelly Shackelford, CEO of First Liberty Institute. “As Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy said during recent oral arguments on a similar case, ‘Tolerance is essential in a free society, and tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.’ Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others.”
“Popular ideas are not in great danger of being suppressed or silenced,” said Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty. “The true test of our commitment to freedom is when we welcome disagreement and live peaceably as neighbors anyway. In its ruling, the Oregon Court of Appeals undermined America’s promise of protection even for those forms of expression which may be unpopular.”
WND reported last year when three judges on the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed a penalty of $135,000 against the Kleins for refusing to promote lesbianism by providing a cake for two “brides,” Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laural Bowman-Cryer.
The fine was a death penalty for the bakery, forcing it out of business.
The Oregon judges, Joel DeVore, Chris Garrett and Bronson James, also determined that in today’s America, quoting the Bible can cause “emotional harm” to same-sex duos.
The Kleins explained that providing the cake would violate their Christian beliefs, but the same-sex pair filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Labor and Industries. The agency investigated and found that the insults the lesbians endured were worth $75,000 in damages to one and $60,000 in damages to the other, who didn’t hear the quotation from the Bible directly but had it quoted to her later.
Investigators, the judges said, “found that Aaron used the term ‘abomination’ in the course of explaining why he was denying service to the complainants on account of their sexual orientation, and further found that the complainant experienced emotional distress based on the use of that term. It is that nexus that underlies … [the] damages award.”
The word was used when Aaron Klein quoted Leviticus, stating, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” He was explaining that he followed the Bible and believed that its instructions on homosexuality are clear.
Based on that, DeVore, Garrett and James claimed the fine imposed by the state agency was legitimate.
“For instance, the order states that Rachel, who was brought up as a Southern Baptist, ‘interpreted [Aaron’s] use of the word ‘abomination’ [to] mean that God made a mistake when he made her, that she wasn’t supposed to exist, and that she had no right to love or be loved.’ Similarly, the order states that Laurel recognized the statement as a reference from Leviticus and, based on her religious background, ‘understood the term ‘abomination’ to mean ‘this is a creature not created by God, not created with a soul. They are unworthy of holy love. They are not worthy of life.'”
Despite the judges’ heavy reliance on the religious beliefs expressed by the same-sex duo, the judges gave no indication that the Kleins had a right to express their beliefs. The judges concluded it was a legitimate duty of the state to force Christians to promote same-sex duos.
“We reject the Kleins’ construction of [state law] and conclude that their denial of service was ‘on account of’ the complainants’ sexual orientation for purposes of that statute. As for their constitutional arguments, we conclude that the final order does not impermissibly burden the Kleins’ right to free expression under the First Amendment.”
The court rulings ignored the fact the state case was undermined by labor commissioner Brad Avakian’s statements condemning the Kleins even before he heard the case.
Avakian “made numerous public comments on social media and in media interviews revealing his intent to rule against them,” according to court records. “He stated that the Kleins had ‘disobey[ed]’ Oregon law and needed to be ‘rehabilitate[d].'”
WND reported Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham, who also is CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, called the ruling against the Kleins a travesty for the First Amendment.
Graham reacted on his Facebook page to an earlier Oregon ruling against the Kleins.
He wrote: “This is unbelievable! … Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner, upheld [the previous] ruling that the Kleins have to pay the lesbian couple $135,000 for a long list of alleged damages including: ‘acute loss of confidence,’ ‘high blood pressure,’ ‘impaired digestion,’ ‘loss of appetite,’ ‘migraine headaches,’ ‘pale and sick at home after work,’ ‘resumption of smoking habit,’ ‘weight gain,’ and ‘worry.’ Give me a break. In my opinion, this couple should pay the Kleins $135,000 for all they’ve been through!”
He continued: “Even more outrageous is that Avakian has also now ordered the Kleins to ‘cease and desist’ from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs. This is an outright attack on their #freedomofspeech. A senior attorney with The Heritage Foundation was absolutely right when he said, ‘It is exactly this kind of oppressive persecution by government officials that led the pilgrims to America.'”
The appeal argues the Kleins should be protected under both the U.S. and the Oregon Constitutions.
“Aaron and Melissa Kleins’ custom wedding cakes are pure expression that is fully protected by the Free Speech Clauses of the United States and Oregon Constitutions. Forcing artists to design and create custom wedding cakes to celebrate marriage rituals that are incompatible with the artists’ sincerely held religious beliefs abridges the freedom of speech and association protected by the First Amendment,” the appeal states.
Additionally, state law requires that “no law shall … control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
In plain language, the appeal says, that forbids the state from compelling participation in a same-sex wedding “against one’s religious and conscientious objections.”
It charges that the state participated in the “covert suppression of particular religious beliefs” with its overt bias against the Kleins.
“On this logic, a Muslim videographer can be compelled to document a Wiccan ritual … a feminist caterer can be compelled to serve a fraternity initiation … a black T-shirt printer can be compelled to design shirts for a Ku Klux Klan rally,” it warned.