PORTLAND, Ore. — The Christian owners of a bakery in Oregon who paid over $135,000 in state-ordered “emotional damages” for two lesbian women who filed a complaint after being told that the couple could not provide a cake for their “wedding” ceremony say that the state emptied all three of their personal banking accounts earlier this month—including money set aside to pay their tithe.
“It was like my breath was taken away,” Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa told conservative reporter Todd Starnes this week. “I panicked. Everything was gone.”
She explained that she and her husband have 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, and when Klein checked on her bank accounts a few weeks ago, she noticed that they were empty.
“They just took it,” she said.
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 on Monday.
It is not known whether the state plans to return the Kleins’ personal money that was taken out of their bank accounts.
As previously reported, in February, a judge with the Oregon BOLI declared the Kleins guilty of discrimination for declining to make a cake last year for the same-sex ceremony, which the couple viewed as a form of participation in the event. The Kleins had served the women in other ways, but did not believe they should be helping with the ceremony due to their biblical convictions.
The matter was thus moved into the sentencing phase.
The two lesbian women who filed the complaint with the state, Rachel Cryer and Laurel 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, they had to close their business and move it into their private home.
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, officials moved to docket the judgment and seek permission to place a property lien against the Kleins or collect the money in other ways.
As previously reported, some outlets had claimed this past summer that the Kleins were not ordered to pay damages for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian’s same-sex ceremony, but were rather punished for inadvertently “publishing” the women’s addresses on Facebook by uploading the filed consumer complaint—a public document that had not been redacted by the government—on their new personal page that only had 17 friends at the time. The Kleins deleted the status after being informed that the document was not redacted.
“I was just notified that the [complainants’] info was on the document I posted. Totally didn’t think about that, was a mistake and I apologize. I hope nobody used it for anything bad,” Aaron Klein posted.
The order from BOLI outlines that the complaint form that one of the women completed included a disclaimer noting that once submitted, their information would now become “subject to Oregon’s public records law.” This means that the personal address and phone number that was supplied would able to be seen by the public and the subject of the complaint.
However, the woman said that because she submitted the form via her Smartphone, the disclaimer “was not visible.”
While BOLI concluded that the Kleins were “guilty” of discrimination for declining to supply the cake for the lesbian’s same-sex event, and were willing to award the women $135,000 in damages for emotional distress for the denial, it ultimately refused the women any additional damages for the Facebook incident nor surrounding the matter having been in the media.
As assertions in the media about the reason the Kleins were fined were inaccurate since the couple was solely ordered to pay damages surrounding the denial of the cake, several outlets retracted their claims and apologized for disseminating the information.