Sunday, March 3, 2024

Christian Bakers Melissa & Aaron Klein Appeal to Oregon Court – Again

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Aaron and Melissa Klein, the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, have once again made their case before the Oregon Court of Appeals to allow them to bake cakes without endorsing messages that violate their beliefs.

The Kleins, represented by First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray PLLC, made oral arguments before the appellate court less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an earlier decision by the state court that had effectively forced Aaron and Melissa out of business.

“We welcomed and served everyone in our bakery, but we could not endorse all messages. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build,” Melissa said. “We just want to be able to run our business without being forced to celebrate events that conflict with our religious beliefs.”

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CBN News has reported for years about the Kleins, the two Oregon bakers were fined by the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI) for declining to make a cake promoting a gay commitment ceremony. They were punished with a $135,000 fine for not creating that cake in 2013. 

The couple appealed and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 where the justices threw out a previous state court ruling against the Kleins, sending the case back down to that court in Oregon.  

The high court ordered the state court to reconsider the case in light of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips who also couldn’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The high court had ruled that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of citizens. 

The Oregon Court of Appeals determined that BOLI had demonstrated anti-religious hostility toward the Kleins and struck down the assessment of damages. 

However, the case was sent back to the same BOLI commission for further proceedings.

In July 2022, the commission unilaterally reimposed a damage award of $30,000.

The Kleins appealed, again. 

Then in June 2023, the Supreme Court sent the case to Oregon to reconsider, this time, in light of its decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which reaffirmed Americans’ First Amendment protections when they ruled that business owners can opt out of providing a service if promoting a certain messages through that service violates their religious convictions.

“Freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel to First Liberty Institute which is representing the Kleins. “The First Amendment protects all Americans, of different perspectives and beliefs, to not be forced to use their art to send a message with which they disagree.” 

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