By Tony Perkins
Make them bake cake! That’s the verdict of an administrative judge in the case of Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. The couple, who became the brave face of America’s religious liberty clash, were informed yesterday by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries that in the battle over marriage, their First Amendment rights no longer counted.
In the first of what will almost certainly be several rulings, the Kleins were found guilty of violating state law for politely declining an order for a same-sex “wedding” cake. As part of his 52-page order, Judge Alan McCullough claims that “requiring them to provide a wedding cake for Complainants does not constitute compelled speech.” Aaron Klein disagrees. “First Amendment, Constitution. Freedom of religion. I’m free to exercise my religion however I see fit. If I’m told to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage, I feel that I’m violating my beliefs. I don’t think I should have to do that.”
Unfortunately for the parents of five, wedding vendors like them may soon have no choice. In the free market, the courts no longer seem to recognize the right to believe what you want. Owners of small businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Arlene’s Flowers, Simply Elegant Wedding Planning, Hands On Originals, and others are seen as nothing more than tools of the government to think and believe as the state sees fit. If they refuse, as Aaron and Melissa have done, Oregon is threatening to bring the full weight of the government to bear.
A hearing on March 10 will decide exactly how much the Kleins’ courage will cost them. As much as $200,000 could be at stake for a family who’s already been forced to close their shop and scrape together the money they need to make up for that lost income. Anna Harmon, one of the Kleins’ three attorneys, said that although the judge tossed out every claim but one, it’s still a tough loss. “Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means… The judge ruled wrongly that the Kleins’ right not to design and create a work of art celebrating an event which violates the tenets of their religion is not protected by the Oregon or Federal Constitutions. This is a dangerous result for religious liberty and rights of conscience in Oregon…”
If only it were just Oregon! But, as Betty and Richard Odgaard just found out, the fierce tide of intolerance is at the door of every Christian business owner in America. Last Wednesday, the long-time owners of a church-building-turned-bistro made the sad announcement that they would no longer be hosting weddings at the scenic site after settling a same-sex “wedding” dispute. The Odgaards, a Mennonite family, were hauled before a civil rights commission for deciding not to host a homosexual ceremony because of their religious beliefs. So the government gave them an ultimatum: conform or pay crippling fines.
It was a difficult decision for the family, which hosted as many as 15 to 20 weddings a year at the Görtz Haus. But ultimately, something had to give — and that something wasn’t going to be their beliefs. “Our faith hasn’t changed,” Betty told reporters.
Where are all of those writers who insist that conservatives “can’t even convincingly demonstrate that anyone is hurt in any way by a gay wedding?” Still denying reality no doubt.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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