Bakers Aaron and Melissa Heading to Court for Justice
Liberals are constantly saying that people should have freedom regardless of “who they love.” But what if that person is God? Aaron and Melissa Klein are just two of the dozens of victims who’ve lost their business for daring to believe that the government should respect their relationship — with Christ. Yesterday, after three long years of fighting for the same rights the Constitution guarantees them, the bakers finally got their day in court.
It’s been an exhausting journey for the parents of five, who became instant targets when they turned down a job to make a same-sex wedding cake for a local lesbian couple. Oregon officials like Brad Avakian seemed determined to make an example of the bakers, eventually destroying their business and wiping out their life savings. After a roller-coaster trip through the state’s administrative system, the Kleins were found guilty of discrimination and ordered to pay $135,000 for what should be free exercise. “We lost everything,” an emotional Melissa told reporters Thursday after oral arguments. “I loved my shop, and losing it has been so hard for me and my family… That was a part of our life, and it was something that we thought was going to be passed down to our kids. It’s something that I miss every day still.”
Hopefully, the Kleins will have a better result in court. “Every time we tried to make a constitutional argument it was stomped on,” Aaron explained to the Daily Signal, “because it was administrative law. But now we’re finally in a courtroom where the Constitution and due process can be argued on a level we haven’t seen before.” Like Barronelle Stutzman, who could lose her home over her offer to sell flowers — but not arrange them — for the same-sex wedding of a longtime customer, the Kleins argued that a custom cake is also art and should be protected by the First Amendment. As Melissa said,
“When we opened our bakery, we loved serving all customers who came into the shop, regardless of their identity or beliefs. My cakes were my canvas. I sketched and custom designed each one to fit each couple perfectly. My bakery wasn’t just called ‘Sweet Cakes Bakery,’ it was ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ because I pour my passion and heart into each cake I make. My faith is a part of that. I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and I would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn’t participate in a ceremony that goes against what I believe.”
FRC’s Travis Weber, who monitored the case and joined me on “Washington Watch” yesterday to talk about it, pointed out that the even the government’s attorney had a hard time defending the excessive damages the plaintiffs were seeking. Nor, he pointed out, could the government offer “any credible defense of the behavior of Brad Avakian, who has been heavily and patently biased against the Kleins throughout this entire ordeal. Hopefully, the appeals court judges could clearly see this, leading them to deliver justice for the Kleins in this case.” Even the state’s attorney admitted that this would be like forcing a Catholic artist to paint a picture for a Wiccan customer who walked into a store and demanded one. That’s illogical and — more importantly — unconstitutional!
First Liberty Institute’s Adam Gustafson, who represented the Kleins, argued that this had nothing to do with discrimination. After all, the Kleins happily served people who identified as gay. They simply chose not to become an intricate part of a ceremony that violated their beliefs on marriage. How is that different than fashion designers refusing to dress Melania Trump for the inauguration? Instead of singling out conservatives for punishment, it’s time to apply the same rights to everyone. In the end, the only permission slip anyone should need to live according to their beliefs is the First Amendment.
“We just want the government to tolerate and accept differences of opinion, so we can continue to follow our faith,” Melissa said. We hope that, even if people have different beliefs from us, that they will show each other tolerance and that we can peacefully live together and still follow our faith. That’s all we want.” It’s what we all want. And as Americans, what we deserve.
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