PORTLAND, Ore. — A Christian couple that was ordered to pay $135 in “emotional damages” to two lesbian women for declining to make a cake for their same-sex ceremony, which the couple believed to be a form of participation, will now have their day in court as the case will be argued this year before the Oregon Court of Appeals.
As previously reported, last February, a judge with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Instrustries (BOLI) declared the Kleins guilty of discrimination for declining to make a cake for the 2014 event. The Kleins had served the women, Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, in other ways, and the women returned because the couple had treated them kindly.
“I have customers come in almost on a weekly basis that are homosexual,” Aaron Klein told reporters. “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.”
But because the Kleins said that they didn’t feel comfortable with fulfilling that particular order because of the event that it involved, the women filed a discrimination complaint against the bakers.
“We were being asked to participate in something that we could not participate in,” Klein’s wife, Melissa, stated, outlining that the wedding cake is one of the most personal and intricate parts of the occasion.
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.”
After the Kleins were declared guilty of discrimination, Cryer and Bowman submitted individual lists of just under 100 aspects of suffering in order to receive damages. They included “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “distrust of men,” “distrust of former friends,” “excessive sleep,” “discomfort,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “loss of pride,” “mental rape,” “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, the Kleins had to close their business and move it into their private home, and eventually close it altogether.
“We still get threats. We just got a threat last week,” Melissa Klein told The Blaze this week. “We still get emails every once in a while out of the blue that are just saying horrible things to us.”
“Somebody [recently] made a threat of basically, ‘Wait until 8:15. You’ll see what happens,'” she explained. “It leaves a little feeling of, ‘What does that mean?’”
In April, Alan McCullough, an administrative judge with the bureau, recommended a payment of $135,000, with one of the women receiving $75,000 and the other $60,000. Prosecutors had sought damages of $75,000 each.
In June, BOLI officially accepted McCollough’s recommendation and ordered the Kleins to pay the women $135,000 in light of the damages Cryer and Bowman listed.
The Kleins then asked for a stay of the order, but were denied. As the couple initially refused to pay the damages, believing that they had done no wrong, officials moved to docket the judgment and seek permission to place a property lien against the Kleins or collect the money in other ways.
In December, the state emptied all of the Klein’s personal banking accounts—including money set aside to pay their tithe. The Kleins told reporters following the incident that they had three personal bank accounts: one checking, one savings, and one account marked “God’s money” for their tithe at church. The three accounts contained just under $7,000 total.
Faced with a nine percent interest penalty for not paying the $135,000, the Kleins then opted to submit a check for the amount in full, using money donated by supporters that was not in their personal bank account. They dropped off a check for $136,927.07 after realizing that the government had seized their personal accounts. The funds are currently in an escrow account pending the final outcome of the case.
Now, the Kleins are scheduled to have their day in court before the Oregon Court of Appeals. Legal briefs are expected to be filed throughout the year, and oral argument will take place in late 2016.
“The government should never force people to violate their conscience or celebrate causes they don’t believe in,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, which will be representing the couple in court.
The Kleins also explained on Fox’s “The Kelly File” this week that Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s assertion that Christian bakeries such as theirs are refusing to make cupcakes for homosexuals are false.
“That’s definitely not the way it is,” Melissa Klein stated. “We don’t have a litmus test for customers that come in.”
“We never rejected a customer. We said no thank you to an event,” added Aaron Klein. “It’s a much different scenario than what he thinks it is.”