This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
The Supreme Court has ruled – again – in a war by LGBT activists in the state government in Oregon, telling the court system there to do a "do-over" in the case involve Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and owners Melissa and Aaron Klein.
They were forced out of business after state officials slammed them with a massive fine for doing business according to their Christian beliefs.
Now, in light of the high court's affirmation of the free speech rights of a Colorado web designer to do business according to her Christian beliefs, the Sweet Cakes case conclusion at the state level has been set aside.
The case is being handled by First Liberty Institute, and it announced on Friday the "decade-long" war by Oregon "to force bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein out of business" has reached another breaking point.
They, like web designer Lori Smith in Colorado, were targeted by state officials for refusing to "create a government-approved message," the institute reported.
But while the threat was only pending against Smith, and her 3030 Creative, the state of Oregon actually unleashed a biased prosecution of the Kleins, first imposing a massive $135,000 fine against them.
Ordered by the Supreme Court earlier to re-evaluate that conclusion, the same biased commission lowered that to $30,000.
Now that has been canceled, but the case still remains open.
"It’s a win when the Supreme Court vacates a bad lower court decision like it did for Aaron and Melissa today, but the case is not over," said Kelly Shackelford, of First Liberty. "The Kleins have been fighting for the First Amendment for over a decade and we will stand with them no matter how long it takes to get the victory they deserve."
Trent McCotter, of co-counsel Boyden Gray & Associates, said, "The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak freely and live according to their sincere religious beliefs. As the Supreme Court has recognized, carefully guarding these rights is all the more important when the beliefs expressed are controversial."
Oregon's state government "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."
The report said, "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. In today’s order, the Court returned the case to Oregon to reconsider in light of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis."
The Oregon Court of Appeals had ruled 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."
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.
"[Avakian] stated that the Kleins had 'disobey[ed]' Oregon law and needed to be 'rehabilitate[d],'" Graham said at the time.
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."