An Oregon couple who lost their business after being find $135,000 because of their religious beliefs is finally getting their hearing in the Oregon Court of Appeals today – nearly a year after the verdict last April.
The husband and wife owned and operated a family bakery, Sweetcakes by Melissa, in Gresham, Oregon, but ran afoul of the state when they declined to use their artistic talent to provide a cake for an unnatural marriage ceremony for two homosexuals.
Besides being forced to support a ceremony that violates their sincerely held Christian beliefs, the Aaron and Melissa Klein reportedly suffered another injustice in the court proceedings.
“Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian ‘decided the Kleins were guilty before he even heard the case,” the Washington Times reported at the time. “In addition to fining the Kleins $135,000 for mental, physical and emotional damages, Mr. Avakian also issued a gag order to prevent the family from speaking about the case publicly.”
The couple insisted that it was not personal discrimination that motivated their refusal – but their religious convictions.
“The Kleins declined to bake a wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple who has since married,” the Times’ Bradford Richardson explained. “Mr. and Mrs. Klein said they did not decline to serve the couple because of their sexual orientation, noting that they had previously served one of the women who filed the complaint. Rather, they said participating in the specific wedding ceremony would have violated their religious beliefs about marriage.”
The Christian couple are being represented today in court by Attorney Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute, who argues that the state virtually stole their life savings.
“Well, Aaron and Melissa Klein of course lost their business due to a stiff penalty imposed by the state of Oregon for simply abiding by their conscience and running their business and not only did they face that stiff penalty, that $135,000 penalty by the state of Oregon, the state didn't wait for the Kleins to pay that,” Dys explained. “The state just went in and took the money out of their account.”
Dys maintains that homosexual activists cannot be allowed to trump the Constitution.
“Americans should be free to run their lives and businesses according to their consciences without governmental interference,” the Christian attorney asserted. “In fact, the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech and the free exercise of religion so for the state of Oregon to impose this penalty for Aaron and Melissa Klein simply abiding by their religious beliefs and running their businesses according to the dictates of their conscience is simply wrong.”
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries fined the Kleins.
Today, the couple’s case will be heard for the first time by the Oregon Court of Appeals.