State takes ANOTHER stab at fixing anti-Christian targeting

 February 5, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

The state of Oregon, already told by the U.S. Supreme Court in so many words to quit showing hostility to a Christian baker, is taking another stab at getting the case right.

It was a state official who years ago when the case involving Sweet Cakes by Melissa first erupted who lashed out angrily at the Christian owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, and accused them of being criminals.

They were fined $135,000 by state officials when they declined orders to violate their Christian faith and promote same-sex weddings with their artistry.

That’s the same issue that was before the high court in the Colorado case involving Masterpiece Cakeshop and owner Jack Phillips. That’s the case where Colorado was resoundingly blasted for exhibiting “hostility” to Christianity.

The Sweet Cakes case, on appeal, was sent back to the state for the decision to be changed in alignment with the Masterpiece ruling.

So state officials there, instead of following the intent of the high court’s ruling, lowered the penalty from $135,000 to $30,000 by essentially copying and repeating their earlier condemnation.

Now, officials with First Liberty Institute confirm that the Oregon Court of Appeals, again, has heard arguments in the case.

First Liberty reported, “Last June, the Supreme Court of the United States vacated an earlier decision by the state court that effectively forced Aaron and Melissa out of business for refusing to create a message that conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs. It was the second time the Supreme Court struck the Oregon courts’ opinions in this case. “

”Freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message,” said Stephanie Taub, senior counsel to First Liberty Institute “The First Amendment protects all Americans, of different perspectives and beliefs, to not be forced to use their art to send a message with which they disagree.”

Melissa Klein, in a statement released by First Liberty, explained, “We welcomed and served everyone in our bakery, but we could not endorse all messages. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build. We just want to be able to run our business without being forced to celebrate events that conflict with our religious beliefs.”

The state labor board “originally imposed a devastating $135,000 damage award against the Kleins for violating Oregon’s public accommodations statute after they declined to design and create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. Following a series of appeals, the Supreme Court in 2019 returned the case to Oregon for further consideration in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which held that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens,” First Liberty said.

”The Oregon Court of Appeals determined that BOLI had demonstrated anti-religious hostility toward the Kleins and struck down the assessment of damages. However, the court then sent the case back to the same biased commission, BOLI, for further proceedings. In July 2022, BOLI unilaterally reimposed a damage award of $30,000,” and that prompted the Klein’s latest appeal, the legal team said.

Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled in another Colorado case, 303 Creative, that the state could not require a business owner to make statements that violated her religious faith, setting up yet another conflict with the Oregon state ideology that officials are trying to impose on business owners.

WND reported the case involved a demand from Laurel Bowman-Cryer and Rachel Bowman-Cryer for the bakery to promote their same-sex event, which was declined.

One official with the state labor board, BOLI, Brad Avakian, publicly condemned the Kleins' actions as "hate-filled" even before the dispute came before him as commissioner of the state's Bureau of Labor and Industry.

He imposed a fine of $135,000 on the couple, forcing them out of business.

Court documents reveal, "Avakian's statements about the Kleins’ religious beliefs – which he uttered before BOLI had even completed" an investigation.

The Oregon case drew the ire of Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham, at the time.

"[Avakian] stated that the Kleins had 'disobey[ed]' Oregon law and needed to be 'rehabilitate[d],'" Graham said.

On Facebook, Graham wrote: "This is unbelievable! ... Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner, upheld [the previous] ruling that the Kleins have to pay the lesbian couple $135,000 for a long list of alleged damages including: 'acute loss of confidence,' 'high blood pressure,' 'impaired digestion,' 'loss of appetite,' 'migraine headaches,' 'pale and sick at home after work,' 'resumption of smoking habit,' 'weight gain,' and 'worry.' Give me a break. In my opinion, this couple should pay the Kleins $135,000 for all they’ve been through!"

Graham said that even "more outrageous is that Avakian has also now ordered the Kleins to 'cease and desist' from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs."

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