By now you’ve heard the news: the devout Christian bakers in Oregon who declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony because of their faith convictions have been fined $135,000. They’ve been told to pay this week.
In light of this development, I want to share seven facts about the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case that might surprise you:
1. The case hasn’t been seen by a judge in a court of law. The authority issuing the amount? Brad Avakian, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries of the State of Oregon.
National Review’s David French explains how, across our nation, agencies are investigating discrimination complaints and are given the authority to act as “’judge, jury, and executioner.’” That’s an amazing amount of power for a bureaucrat to wield, and it’s ripe for abuse.
2. Commissioner Brad Avakian is no impartial judge.
He has worked “closely with a powerful gay rights advocacy group in its case against Aaron and Melissa Klein.”
3. Aaron and Melissa Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for “emotional, mental and physical suffering” to a lesbian couple. These claims were never verified.
The lesbian couple testified they had “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful” as a result of the Kleins declining to bake their cake and that they suffered from “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain,” “worry,” and “acute loss of confidence.”
As The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter points out,
“No doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist confirmed any of these symptoms. The commissioner merely accepted these claims at face value even though his own ruling stated that Laurel Bowman-Cryer was frequently an unreliable witness.”
4. Commissioner Brad Avakian went after the Kleins’ personal assets.
The order requires the couple to use “personal property” rather than only business assets to pay the $135,000 in damages. That money would go directly to the lesbian couple. In a podcast interview, father-of-five Aaron Klein explained, “It’s coming straight from our personal assets. That would be our vehicles, our house, the money that should be used to feed our kids, you know, that sort of thing. So, this is not something that will be real easy to just pay up.”
5. Commissioner Brad Avakian has issued Aaron and Melissa Klein a gag order.
The Christian couple is now legally required “to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, causing to be published… any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation.”
6. There is good news in all of this.
Concerned citizens and Christians have donated more than $210,000 to help the beleaguered family.
7. The Kleins pledge to stand strong.
On the Facebook page for Sweet Cakes by Melissa, they write,
“We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God’s truth, God’s word and freedom for ALL Americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!”
Please continue to pray for Aaron and Melissa Klein, and all the other Christian merchants – florists, photographers, other bakers and more – who are being forced to choose between their livelihood and their faith.