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Christian bakers fined $135,000 for refusing to make cake for a gay wedding fight back

Posted September 15

Melissa and Aaron Klein are fighting back against a $135,000 fine they received for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. (Deseret Photo)

The Christian owners of an Oregon bakery, who were fined $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, have filed a reply brief in court, arguing that the government violated their religious beliefs.

Attorneys for Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the now-shuttered Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon, submitted the brief to the Oregon Court of Appeals Thursday, alleging the government cannot force artists to celebrate causes or issues that violate their conscience.

The Kleins, who are married, are represented by conservative firm First Liberty as well as Boyden Gray, former White House counsel for President H.W. Bush.

The lawyers contend that Oregon officials violated the Kleins' constitutional rights when they issued the fine over the wedding cake refusal, proposing that the government essentially overstepped its bounds.

"This case is, first and foremost, about whether Oregon has commandeered individuals’ liberty to compel them — upon pain of crippling financial penalties — to facilitate the multitude of events in which 'persons' protected by (discrimination law) might participate," the brief reads. "Such events might be weddings, as here, or religious rituals, sex-segregated club initiations, or abortions."

The "summary of argument" part of the document goes on to say that the court must discern whether the state has also decided to force Catholics to sculpt totems for Wiccans, whether feminists must photograph fraternity events or whether a pro-life videographer must produce films on abortions.

"It has not, and that ends the case," the document continues, tying the cake refusal to the aforementioned hypotheticals.

Supporters of the Kleins have said the bakers should be protected from producing art, messages or products that violate their sincerely held Christian beliefs — a sentiment espoused by the bakers' attorneys.

"The First Amendment prohibits government compulsion of art and of speech," Gray said in a statement. "We must ensure that freedom of speech and religious expression is preserved for all Americans."

Of course, not everyone sees baking a cake as a form of "art" or "speech," as has been noted in similar cases.

The brief itself questions whether the government can force people to use their time and talents to contribute to others' expressions, and, at what point, the application of a law becomes a situation in which the "unlawful targeting of religious practice" takes root.

"(Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries') refusal to grant the Kleins an individualized exemption from (discrimination law), as permitted by Oregon’s Constitution, only highlights its impermissible targeting," the document continues.

Problems started for the Kleins back in 2013 when lesbian couple Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer inquired about a wedding cake. After Aaron Klein declined to offer one, they filed a complaint.

Within weeks, the story had spread through media outlets around the nation and the world. Soon, Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries launched an investigation and, after attempts to reconcile, Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay the couple $135,000, as The Oregonian reported.

After initially delaying payment of the money, the Kleins doled out $136,927.07, which is now in an escrow account. Their legal team told TheBlaze earlier this year that, though they planned to fight the order, payment was essential if the couple wanted to appeal. They proceeded to file an official appeal in April.

Both sides of the dispute have continued to dig in their heels with advocates of both the state and the Kleins believing that the case could help set precedent.

For his part, Avakian, speaking generally about discrimination cases, told The Oregonian in 2013, "Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate."

He said that the goal isn't to shut down businesses, but that it "is to rehabilitate."

"For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon," he said.

The $135,000 order will be given to the Bowman-Cryers if the Kleins lose their legal battle. The money was awarded for "emotional and mental suffering resulting from the denial of service," according to the bureau.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

31 Comments

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  • Ken-Anita Martin Sep 15, 7:02 p.m.
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    Some have said they don't understand how baking a cake violates one's religious freedom. That is a fair question. But it also reveals how those who are not devout believers cannot understand the cake bakers' discomfort. An overall theme of the Bible is that the whole purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is to be an earthly model of the type of deep relationship God desires with his church, culminating in the "marriage supper of the Lamb" in Revelation 19. Being asked to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding is much more meaningful engagement than say selling selling a hamburger to someone whose lifestyle you disagree with.
    To remain true to their convictions, the bakers now have no choice but to go out of business, whereas the gay couple can easily go to the bakery down the street.

  • Ken Ackerman Sep 15, 4:41 p.m.
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    I'm sure Trump will deliver on his promise to spread misery and hate all around.

  • Raleigh Rose Sep 15, 3:45 p.m.
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    Can you back up your claim that businesses run by LGBT and Muslims are all allowed to discriminate and no one says anything? It doesn't matter who runs the business. If they discriminate illegally, they should be held accountable. Doesn't matter who or what you are.

  • Rod Runner Sep 15, 3:12 p.m.
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    No pun intended? What pun? If the totality of your understanding of being gay is the physical aspect of it, then no wonder you don't understand the fight for gay rights.

    Is the relationship you have with your partner only about the physicality and not the love you have for him or her and the experiences you share together and being there for each other? Is it really only the sex to you?

    Why are people that are anti-gay so obsessed with the sex aspect of it?

  • Rod Runner Sep 15, 3:12 p.m.
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    No pun intended? What pun? If the totality of your understanding of being gay is the physical aspect of it, then no wonder you don't understand the fight for gay rights.

    Is the relationship you have with your partner only about the physicality and not the love you have for him or her and the experiences you share together and being there for each other? Is it really only the sex to you?

    Why are people that are anti-gay so obsessed with the sex aspect of it?

  • Jim Williams Sep 15, 2:06 p.m.
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    Do a GoFundMe page, get on K-Love and let the listeners know. Debt will be paid off and government will profit by $135,000.00. So the real winner is not the homosexual community but government collecting $135,000 through tyranny. Stay classy Hillaryites.

  • Tom Estep Sep 15, 2:05 p.m.
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    Trump will put everyone in their placeIn their place? Like in the back of the bus?

  • David Hartman Sep 15, 1:57 p.m.
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    Yup, and lgbt business owners (and muslim business owners) can choose to serve or not whomever they wish with impunity. Only Christians are targeted by liberals because they rarely fight back.

    The good thing is the Kleins have made more than enough money from donations to fight and survive this merciless assault on freedom.

  • Steven Brown Sep 15, 1:38 p.m.
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    $135,000.00?? Who comes up with these numbers? A fine is in order in my opinion but seriously? In this new age PC world I'm about ready to give up as a small business owner and just go about finding individuals and small businesses that I can sue because they hurt my feelings. It'd be a lot less effort than trying to actually make others happy. And the next time a gay man grabs my bu*t in Key West I'm gonna sue him into poverty...

  • Vince DiSena Sep 15, 1:13 p.m.
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    Big brother breathing down your throat. Now that's what I call freedom of choice!

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