Aaron and Melissa Klein are Christians who used to serve all kinds of people in their bakery, Sweet Cakes, in Oregon. Melissa said business had been booming. Then one of their customers asked them to make a custom “wedding” cake for her and another woman. The women had to know the Kleins were Christians. The couple declined to use their artistic talents in a way that would conflict with the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin, and marriage is the union between one man and one woman.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found that the Kleins discriminated against the couple and fined them $135,000 for “emotional” damages for allegedly quoting the Bible. The parents of five tried to get the ruling overturned and had to close their bakery.
The couple lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. The high court in 2019 reversed the appeal court’s ruling and asked it to re-examine the case in light of its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018). The owner of the shop, Jack Phillips, declined to use his artistic talents to make a custom “wedding” cake for two homosexuals. He lost in the lower courts and ended up defending himself in the Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission discriminated against him and treated his religious faith with contempt.
First Liberty, which represents the Kleins, said Oregon “penalizes bakers $135,000 for refusing to create a government-approved message. Free Americans should not be compelled by the government to create a message that conflicts with their deepest convictions.”
Fox News reported last week that the appeals court issued a split decision in the case, upholding the ruling that the Kleins discriminated against the lesbians but striking down the $135,000 fine on the grounds that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries violated the First Amendment’s “requirement of strict neutrality toward religion” when it determined damages.
But the couple still might have to pay a fine. The appeals court ordered the agency to determine a new fine.
“Oregon is trying to have its cake and eat it, too,” Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement. “The Court admits the state agency that acted as both prosecutor and judge in this case was biased against the Kleins’ faith. Yet, despite this anti-Christian bias that infected the whole case, the court is sending the case back to the very same agency for a do-over.”
“Today’s opinion should have been the end of this ten year long saga,” Taub added. “It’s time for the state of Oregon’s hostility toward Aaron and Melissa to end.”
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