GRESHAM, OR, April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Oregon Christian family has been fined $135,000 for refusing to participate in a homosexual “wedding” ceremony.
Aaron and Melissa Klein ran “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” for seven years in the notoriously left-wing environment of Portland, Oregon. But on January 17, 2013, a lesbian woman asked the Christian couple to bake a cake for their homosexual “marriage” ceremony.
Upon learning the ceremony would be for two women, Aaron said, “I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t waste your time, but we don’t do same-sex marriages” based on his belief in the Bible.
Rachel Bowman-Cryer stormed out. Klein said that later that day, her mother confronted him inside his bakery, saying that “truth had changed” for her.
“She told me that I needed to read my Bible,” he told CNSNews, “and I quoted Leviticus 20:13, at which point she told me I was wrong, and stormed out.”
The next thing the couple knew, Oregon officials had informed them they faced prosecution for violating state law.
Laurel Bowman-Cryer, who is now “married” to Rachel, sent a complaint to the state, saying that Klein “proceeded to say we were abominations unto the lord” (sic). “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
In a subsequent report, the lesbian couple claimed the incident left them feeling “mentally raped.”
They claimed to suffer from 88 separate symptoms of mental anguish – including “surprise,” being “stunned,” experiencing a “dislike of going to work,” and that one or both of them had resumed smoking.
The Kleins, overwhelmed by a social media campaign that led to a lagging wedding business, closed their bakery that September. They briefly moved their business inside their home, but someone broke into their company van and defaced it by scrawling the word “bigot” on the side.
Aaron took a job as a garbage man. They say they are now making about half the income they had been with their bakery.
“Just because I own a business shouldn't mean that I can't have a religious belief and be able to practice my religion in my workplace,” Melissa told The Daily Signal, “and I think that everybody should be able to do that.”
State officials said they pursued the case in order to modify the Kleins' behavior and change their decision to uphold Christian values. Oregon Labor Bureau Commissioner Brad Avakian told local media, “The goal 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.”
“It's almost as if the state is hostile toward Christian businesses,” Aaron said at the time.
State officials accused them of violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which allows an unelected judge to impose a maximum of $75,000 per petitioner. The state sought the $150,000 maximum.
On Friday, administrative judge Alan McCullough issued a Proposed Order that assessed $135,000, awarding $60,000 to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel for their suffering. The order is not final, and the final amount could be increased or decreased.
“This amount will financially ruin us,” Melissa Klein wrote on her business' Facebook page upon learning of the order on Friday.
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“There was no doctor, no psychologist – no expert testimony at all,” said one of the Kleins' three attorneys, Anna Harmon. “This is real money that Aaron and Melissa are going to have to pay that otherwise would be used to pay their mortgage and feed their kids.”
AFR Talk radio host Bryan Fischer was outraged that the fine had been “assessed by a bureaucracy.”
“There was no trial by jury. There was no evidence for and against,” Fischer said on his program today. “That's liberal fascism,” he said, echoing Ted Cruz.
The Kleins had begun raising funds to pay the debt on GoFundMe, but the website shut down their campaign on the grounds that it would reward lawbreakers. (See the full story here.)
The state of Oregon is vigorously defending its decision to press charges.
“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the” couple, the state's Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) said in statement on Friday. “Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.”
Homosexual activists also praised BOLI. Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the homosexual pressure group Basic Rights Oregon, said the Kleins deserved a massive fine, because their actions had been “hurtful and wrong.”
But those who uphold traditional moral and constitutional views say the state has vastly overstepped its legitimate powers and trampled upon America's historic, defining commitment to freedom of thought.
“What happened today is an egregious assault on the freedom Americans have to peaceably live their lives according to their beliefs,” said Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council's president. “In a free country, this is a ruling that cannot and must not stand.”
“A government able to bankrupt people for standing by their deepest beliefs is a government of unbridled power and a threat to everyone's freedom.”