Melissa Klein, the owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, faced heavy criticism after she refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Melissa says that she was simply exercising her right to religious freedom and should not be required by law to associate herself with a lesbian wedding, since it is against her beliefs. However, the Oregon state Bureau of Labor and Industries disagreed, and ordered Melissa Klein and husband Aaron to pay $135,000 “in damages for emotional and mental suffering” after the BOLI concluded the bakery had violated an Oregon state discrimination law prohibiting denial of service due to sexual orientation. Now, the Kleins are facing a potential lien on their home if they don’t pay the $135,000 fine in full, or set-up payment arrangements, by Monday.
The Washington Times reports that, despite the threat of a lien on their home, the Kleins are standing firm in their refusal to pay the steep fine due to religious beliefs. The couple says they will use “every legal remedy” they have to fight the case.
“I will use every legal remedy I have to make sure that this man cannot do this to me, cannot do it to my wife, cannot do it to my five children, cannot do it to any other American. I will not relent. I will continue.”
Aaron Klein has said previously that he feels the case against Sweet Cakes is the result of “the persecution of Christians in this country.” He says that “it should scare every American” that the state has the power to not only dismantle the family’s business over a religious objection, but also potentially throw the family and their five children out of their home.
Though the Kleins feel they are being religiously persecuted, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries says the ruling has nothing to do with religion.
“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”
According to local radio station KXL, the Kleins have lost their business due to the controversy and fines and are now in jeopardy of losing their home. Aaron told KXL that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has ordered them to pay a $135,000 fine by this Friday, or a lien will potentially be put on their home on Monday. Aaron says that if a lien isn’t placed on the home, an additional $25,000 fine could be placed on the fine for interest and penalties. The BOLI confirms that the Kleins have been told to contact their office by Monday (not Friday, as Aaron stated) with payment arrangements or to request a stay of enforcement, which would send the case through judicial review.
Aaron says they plan to file for a stay, but that the fact the state of Oregon even has the power to potentially take their home is concerning.
“Basically, the state of Oregon is saying we can kick you out of your house and make you homeless. They have no qualms about the fact that they’re doing this to my five kids as well. It was just about somebody being upset, which I can understand, but 135 thousand dollars, really?”
What do you think about the $135,000 ruling? Is it excessive?
[Image Credit: Sweet Cakes By Melissa]