Oregon bakery owners press fight for their religious beliefs, take case to appeals court

Couple Melissa and Aaron Klein are the Christian owners of Sweet Cakes Bakery.(Sweet Cakes Bakery)

It was a big blow for Oregon bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein when a court ordered them to cough up $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, but the Christian couple are not backing down from their beliefs.

The two have now taken their case before the Oregon Court of Appeals, according to the Gospel Herald. They are being represented by First Liberty (formerly known as Liberty Institute), a legal organisation dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty.

"We're praying that the state of Oregon will back off," First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys said on Tuesday. "We're hoping the state will recognise the freedom of religion—we're hoping that it can be restored, not just for us, but for everybody in this nation. We're going to continue to fight on."

The case all started back in 2013, when same-sex couple Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer filed a lawsuit against the Kleins and their shop Sweet Cakes Bakery after the Christian couple refused to provide the cake for their wedding, citing their religious beliefs as the reason.

Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries sided with the same-sex couple, ruling that the Kleins violated the state's anti-discrimination laws since their bakery is not a registered religious institution.

Aaron said he and his wife do not regret making that decision even if it had cost them their life's savings. "We wanted to honour God with our business, and dedicated everything to him," he said. "We believe in a Biblical definition of marriage, and we believe that we have the freedom of religion in this country."

When the Kleins were forced to pay state-ordered damage fees and interest totalling $136,927.07 in December 2015, it was a good thing that a crowdfunding site such as the Samaritan's Purse gave them financial aid.

"The government of Oregon cleaned out their bank account to penalise them without their permission, but that wasn't enough," Dys said. "Thankfully, they had a whole bunch of crowdfunding that came alongside them and they were able to pay the penalty that they had to pay in order to appeal this."

They now have a chance to turn things around at the Oregon Court of Appeals. First Liberty revealed that legal briefs are expected to be filed throughout the year, adding that their oral argument will take place late this year.

"This is something that is broader than just these two people," Dys said. "If it can happen to Aaron and Melissa at a bakery shop, it can happen to anybody at any level of employment at any business. The government should never be the ones coercing individuals into believing something that they don't believe. Or, for that matter, punishing them for believing it. All of America suffers when someone loses their religious liberty."