Wednesday, October 12, 2016

One fewer Christian-owned bakery after religious freedom fight

Credit: bikeriderlondon via www.shutterstock.com.A Christian couple has closed their Oregon bakery, which faced heavy fines after they declined to make a cake for a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.
 
“We have closed Sweet Cakes,” the bakery said on its Facebook page Sept. 29. “We appreciate everyone’s continued prayer and support!”

The announcement did not give further explanation for the closure. 

Its storefront in Gresham, Oregon was closed in 2013 but the owners, married couple Aaron and Melissa Klein, had continued to operate at home, Portland’s Q13 Fox News reports.

Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for the First Liberty Institute, the legal group representing the couple, said they closed the bakery “months ago” but they still received inquiries about possible orders. 

“Aaron and Melissa simply wanted to update their Facebook page to eliminate any confusion,” Sasser said. “We believe in tolerance and respect for the variety of beliefs we have in our society and are hopeful we can restore freedom of tolerance and belief in this case.”

At one point, the Kleins refused to pay a $135,000 fine ordered by the State of Oregon for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. They later paid the money, but it is in an escrow account pending legal appeals.

“We lost our business,” Melissa Klein said in a February 2016 video produced by First Liberty Institute. “You work so hard to build something up, and something you've poured your heart into and was your passion, to lose that has been devastating for me.”

“We served these two women in the past, we had a great time,” Klein said. “When I do a cake, I feel a part of what these people are celebrating. For me to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding would fully go against what I believe.”

Supporters of the Kleins raised over $500,000 for them through an online campaign.

In 2013, Aaron Klein declined to make the cake for the same-sex couple who had previously patronized the bakery. He told the Oregonian newspaper he chose not to make the cake because he believes marriage is “a religious institution between a man and woman as stated in the Bible.”

Klein said his bakery sold its pastries and cakes to all customers, regardless of sexual orientation, but they turned down requests for cakes for same-sex ceremonies specifically. 

The bakery had crosses on its walls and the New Testament passage John 3:16 on its website.

Rachel Cryer, the woman who filed the complaint against the bakery, claimed Klein said she and her partner were “abominations to the Lord” and that their money was not equal to others. 

Klein denied making those statements.

“I apologized for wasting their time and said we don’t do same-sex marriages,” he told the ABC television affiliate KATU in 2013. “I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn’t mean to make anybody upset.”

Laura Bowman, whose partner filed the legal complaint, said Cryer was “reduced to tears” when she heard the bakery would not bake the cake.

The couple had previously bought a wedding cake at the store several years before for one of the women’s mothers and her husband.

The complaint was filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. 

Same-sex “marriage” was not recognized in the state at the time, but there were strict anti-discrimination provisions in law like the Oregon Equality Act.

“It is unfortunate the state of Oregon cannot simply leave people alone when it disagrees with their beliefs,” Sasser said. “America is a multicultural society with people of many different beliefs. The government is demanding everyone believe the same thing rather than tolerating the diversity of ideas and lifestyles that represent American multiculturalism.”

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