Christian bakers fined $135K for not baking gay wedding cake fundraise to relaunch business

Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.(First Liberty Institute)

(CP) Aaron and Melissa Klein, a Christian couple whose bakery has been held up in the courts for years and were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, are now working on opening a new shop to "show God's goodness to everyone."

The Kleins, who owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa until an Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries order sought to punish them for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013, moved to Montana two years ago and are hoping to start a new bakery, says Melissa Klein in an online appeal for funds.

"I had said I was never going to open a bakery again, but God has seemed to change my heart with this," she adds. "It's been 10 years since having my shop in Oregon and I greatly miss it along with all my sweet customers."

Klein further explains that her family needs to raise $50,000 for a down payment on a restaurant that is for sale in Montana which could be "the home of Sweet Cakes." She adds that she is also selling cookies to raise the money.

Over $17,000 has been raised so far.

"I'm hoping to see, with my new bakery, it being a place where friends and family can come, sit, and have a coffee, enjoy breakfast or lunch, or just even a sweet treat," Klein told CBN News in an interview last week.

"I want it to be a place where everyone feels welcome and is greeted with a joyful smile," she added. "I want it to be a place that is used to show God's goodness to everyone."

In January, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of the state of Oregon maintained that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated by refusing to make a cake for the wedding of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in 2013.

However, the panel reversed the order requiring the couple to pay $135,000 in damages.

"We adhere to our prior decision upholding BOLI's determinations that Aaron unlawfully discriminated against the Bowman-Cryers based on sexual orientation," wrote Circuit Judge Erin Lagesen, the author of the panel opinion. "We reach a different conclusion with respect to our prior affirmance of BOLI's noneconomic damages award," ruled Lagesen.

However, Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit representing the Kleins, didn't agree with the decision of the appeals court.

"The Court admits the state agency that acted as both prosecutor and judge in this case was biased against the Kleins' faith. Yet, despite this anti-Christian bias that infected the whole case, the court is sending the case back to the very same agency for a do-over," she said at the time.

The Bowman-Cryers filed a complaint with BOLI, which ruled that the Kleins had violated Oregon's accommodations statute barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As a result of the BOLI ruling against them, the Kleins were fined $135,000 in damages and closed the bakery.

The Kleins appealed the BOLI order to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2016. After the Oregon court upheld the order, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court issued an order vacating the ruling against the Kleins and sent the case back to the state court of appeals. The nation's high court cited its 2018 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the latter showed an unconstitutional anti-religious animus toward Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop when it punished him for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding.

Speaking about the devastation of losing her business, Klein told CBN's Faithwire, "All I can remember with the feelings of losing my bakery was the feeling of just devastation. ... My heart literally felt ripped in two when I closed my doors for the last time."

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