Editor’s Note: A previous version of this column stated that the Kleins could face a fine of at least $200,000. However, an attorney for the bakers says the actual amount is at least $150,000.
Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, and now they must pay for their crime.
An Oregon administrative law judge ruled on Jan. 29 that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.
The judge’s ruling paves the way for a March 10 hearing at which the Christian business owners could be ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and damages.
“You cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Paul Thompson, the attorney representing the lesbian couple, told The Oregonian. “The entire time, I felt the law was very much on our side because the law is black and white.”
You can read the judge’s 52-page order here.
Last year, investigators concluded the bakers had violated the couple’s rights to equal treatment in places that serve the public. State law bans discrimination against LGBT people in places that serve the public — and that includes bakeries.
I spoke with Aaron Klein by telephone Monday night. He told me the judge’s ruling is a miscarriage of justice and an erosion of religious liberty.
“They’re trying to push us into the closet for being Christians,” he said.
Klein said it’s time for Americans to take a stand for religious liberty.
“The Founding Fathers said we have the inalienable rights given by God — not man,” he said. “Let’s exercise those rights.”
The Kleins’ troubles started in January 2013 when they turned away that lesbian couple. The bakers were relentlessly pummeled in the media. LGBT activists launched protests and boycotts. They tell me their small children even received death threats — simply because they chose to follow the teachings of their faith.
At some point the activists threatened to launch boycotts against any wedding vendor that did business with the Kleins. That turned out to be the death blow to their retail shop. Today, Melissa bakes cakes out of the family’s home.
The question now is how much — if anything — the Kleins will be forced to pay. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will decide, and history proves he’s no friend of the Christian bakers.
In 2013, Avakian told The Oregonian that it is the government’s desire was to rehabilitate businesses like the one owned by the Kleins.
“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.”
Rehabilitate? He wants to ship the Christians off to a government-sanctioned re-education camp?
Aaron Klein told me there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He and his wife will not back down from their Christian beliefs.
“There’s nothing wrong with what we believe,” he said. “It’s a biblical point of view. It’s my faith. It’s my religion.”
Klein said the ruling, which he called “absolutely absurd,” does not surprise him.
“I’ve never seen a government entity use a law to come after somebody because they have a religious view,” he said. “I truly believe Brad Avakian is trying to send a message. I don’t think the constitution of the state of Oregon means anything to these people.”
And I’m afraid there are more narrow-minded government officials just like Avakian.
Kelvin Cochran was fired from his job as the fire chief of Atlanta after he wrote a book that affirmed biblical morality. The book included references to homosexuality that angered the city’s LGBT community. The city’s mayor denied Cochran was let go because of his religious beliefs, but I believe the evidence seems to prove otherwise.
A Colorado baker was ordered by a judge either to serve gay couples or face fines. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, was told to “cease and desist from discriminating” against gay couples. Phillips is a Christian.
New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that two Christian photographers who declined to photograph a same-sex union violated the state’s Human Rights Act. One justice said photographers Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin were “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
And the Washington attorney general filed a lawsuit against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding. She told the Christian Broadcasting Network she “had to take a stand” in defense of her faith in Christ.
The evidence seems to indicate that Christian business owners are being intentionally singled out for persecution. And it appears the courts are consistently ruling that gay rights trump everyone else’s rights.
The Constitution guarantees every American a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Melissa Klein makes wedding cakes. That’s her pursuit of happiness. Should she be denied that right simply because of her Christian faith?
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.