Lawyers for Oregon Christian bakers call today’s move by the U.S. Supreme Court is a “victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans.”
Aaron and Melissa Klein declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013. Even though same-sex marriage was not legal in the state at that point, the couple complained. State-sponsored moves followed – including a gag order and $135,000 fine – forcing the Kleins out-of-business.
Public targeting of the couple in notoriously ‘liberal’ Oregon was fueled by the outrageous comments by then-head of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian.
As the couple pointed out, Avakian publicly declared that Christians needed to be ‘rehabilitated’ for their beliefs:
[T]he Kleins argue that Avakian “said that ‘folks’ in Oregon do not have a ‘right to discriminate’ and stated that those who use their ‘beliefs’ to justify discrimination need to be ‘rehabilitate[d].’ ” (Alterations by the Kleins.) Later, the Kleins characterize Avakian as stating that “the Kleins *** needed to be ‘rehabilitate[d].’ “Caselaw
As I explain in this post, the Supreme Court didn’t choose to decide the case (grant cert) but instead reversed the Oregon Appeals Court decision uploading BOLI’s actions. The Court vacated the Oregon’s Appeals Court decision and told them to do it over in light of the nation’s highest court Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
First Liberty attorney, Kelly Shackelford, says that Oregon, as in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, was openly hostile to the Kleins:
The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.First Liberty Institute
First Liberty says Oregon’s contempt for the First Amendment was clear throughout its treatment of the Kleins:
The State of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) found that the Kleins had had violated Oregon’s public accommodations statute after Aaron and Melissa declined to design and create wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. In addition to the $135,000 penalty for “emotional damages,” BOLI issued a gag order, preventing them from even talking about their actual beliefs. As a result, the Kleins were forced to shut down their bakery. Aaron and Melissa appealed the BOLI ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals in April 2016. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the gag order but otherwise upheld the decision of BOLI in December 2017.First Liberty Institute
First Liberty keeps a website about the Klein’s case. Here’s a video of the couple talking about the Supreme Court victory in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:
Though the Supreme Court didn’t grant the certiorari in the case, the Klein’s case could end up back there. If the Kleins lose again in the Oregon Appeal’s Court they’re likely to appeal to the highest court again.