GRESHAM, Ore. — The popular fundraising site GoFundMe shut down a fundraiser Friday night for a Christian couple that was ordered to pay $135,000 in “emotional damages” to two lesbians, stating that the fundraising effort was for “illegal purposes” because the bakery had been found guilty of “discrimination” for declining to make a cake for their ceremony due to their religious convictions.
According to reports, a competitor of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, run by Aaron and Melissa Klein, contacted GoFundMe in seeking to stop the fundraiser, which had raised over $100,000 within a day before being shut down hours later.
“This business has been found guilty of discrimination and is being allowed to fund raise to pay their penalty,” Lisa Watson of Cupcake Jones, a homosexual advocate, wrote on her Facebook page. “The GoFundMe terms of service address hate speech, bigotry, criminal activity and sexism among other things in their campaign … The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting.”
Within an hour of her complaint, the fundraiser was removed, and Jones posted a screenshot Friday night of the “campaign not found” message where the crowdfunding effort had been to rejoice that the page had been taken down. According to her Facebook page, she made the photo her profile picture, but later replaced it with an award that her business received for their homosexual advocacy.
GoFundMe released an explanation for removing the page, stating that the fundraising site doesn’t allow crowdfunding campaigns for those who have been found guilty of violating laws.
“After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our terms and conditions,” it wrote. “[T]he subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”
“The GoFundMe account that was set up to help our family was shut down by the administrators of GoFundMe because they claimed it was raising money for an illegal purpose,” Melissa Klein said that she had been told by the outlet. “We have told GoFundMe that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions.”
Others state that a number of campaigns may be found on the site that seek to raise funds surrounding those fighting criminal convictions.
“So if your throat is already under the government boot, you’re [disqualified],” wrote Jay Richards for The Stream. “This is a form of cronyism—of collusion between a private business and the state to destroy that business’s competitors. … Note that Lisa Jones is motivated by disgust, not only at her competitor, but at those who stepped forward to help her competitor in a time of need.”
INCIDENT WITH THE KLEIN’S RETURNING CUSTOMERS
As previously reported, in January 2013, Aaron Klein was approached by a mother and her daughter as the two were interested in a cake for the daughter’s upcoming wedding—to her lesbian partner.
“My first question was what’s the wedding date,” Klein told television station KTW in Portland. “My next question was [the] bride and groom’s name. … The girl giggled a little bit and said, ‘It’s two brides.’”
He then informed the women that the bakery does not make cakes for homosexual events.
“I apologized for wasting their time and said that, unfortunately, we do not do same-sex marriages,” Klein explained.
The women left Sweet Cakes upset about the incident, and later, one of them filed a complaint with the state. The Oregon attorney general’s office soon launched an investigation against the Klein’s as the state’s non-discrimination laws prevent public accommodations from being denied to any individual on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex [or] sexual orientation.”
But Klein states that he regularly serves homosexuals. He believes that there is a difference between serving homosexuals in general and having to personally facilitate same-sex ceremonies, which is an act of participation.
“I have customers come in almost on a weekly basis that are homosexual,” he said. “They can buy my stuff. I sell stuff. I talk with them. That’s fine. … This was not the first time we’ve served these girls.”
“We were being asked to participate in something that we could not participate in,” Klein’s wife, Melissa, noted.
Some Christians believe that being a part of a same-sex event violates the biblical command in 1 Timothy 5:22 not to be “partakers in other men’s sins,” as well as the command in Ephesians 5:7, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
EMOTIONAL DAMAGES SOUGHT BY THE WOMEN
In February, a judge with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Christian bakers are guilty of discrimination for declining to make the cake, thus moving the matter into the sentencing phase. On Friday, Alan McCullough, an administrative judge with the bureau, recommended a fine of $135,000, with one of the women receiving $75,000 and the other $60,000. Prosecutors had sought damages of $75,000 each. McCullough clarified that “[t]he amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature.”
According to the Daily Signal, the two women, who have been identified as Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, submitted individual lists of just under 100 aspects of suffering in order to receive the damages. They included “mental rape,” “distrust of men,” “distrust of former friends,” “discomfort,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “loss of pride,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”
But the Kleins told the court that they too had suffered because of the attacks that they received over their desire to live out their Christian faith in the workplace. They stated that they endured “mafia tactics” as their car was vandalized and broken into on two occasions, their vendors were harassed by homosexual advocates resulting in some businesses breaking ties with them, and they received threatening emails wishing rape, death and Hell upon the family. As a result, they had to close their business and move it into their private home.
After Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, learned that the fundraiser for the Klein’s had been removed by GoFundMe, they set up their own fundraising page for the couple.
“They have taken a stand for the word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” Graham said. “I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children.”
“Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation,” he continued. “When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”
GoFundMe says that the Kleins will still receive the funds that were raised before the page was disabled.
Editor’s Note: Those wishing to donate to the Kleins, may click here for the fundraising page set up by Samaritan’s Purse.