It’s been a long and arduous journey for Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of a family bakery in Gresham, Oregon, called “Sweet Cakes by Melissa.”
The Kleins started the shop in 2007 to create custom-designed, carefully-crafted cakes for special events, a job she described as “a dream come true.” She enjoyed creating wedding cakes to celebrate marriage.
Melissa decided at the outset that she would not create cakes expressing messages that conflicted with her faith. Therefore, she decided she wouldn’t create cakes with profanity, those celebrating divorce or cakes advocating harm to others.
In 2013, the Kleins were asked to create a custom-designed cake to celebrate a “same-sex wedding.” Because of their faith and deeply held convictions that marriage is a God-ordained union of one man and one woman, the Kleins declined.
As a result, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) imposed a steep $135,000 fine on them for allegedly violating the state’s public accommodations statute. Oregon also issued a gag order restricting the Kleins from talking about their beliefs on marriage in public.
Due to the fine and an organized boycott of their business, Aaron and Melissa opted to close the shop.
“Having to shut down the bakery was devastating,” Melissa said at the time. “Our family had worked so hard to build it. To watch it just disappear – it crushed me. I felt like I’d lost a part of myself.”
But the fine remained. Additionally, the Oregon BOLI commissioner charged with deciding their case said that the Kleins were using religion as “an excuse” for their decisions, and that they needed to “learn from [the] experience” and be “rehabilitate[d].”
The Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed BOLI’s ruling, before the Kleins appealed the judgement to the U.S. Supreme Court with the help of lawyers from First Liberty and Boyden Gray & Associate.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, finding Colorado had expressed unconstitutional hostility towards Christian baker Jack Phillips and his religious beliefs after he declined to create a custom-made cake for a same-sex wedding.
As a result of the Masterpiece ruling, the Supreme Court sent the Klein’s case back down to the Oregon Court of Appeals to be reconsidered.
After reconsideration, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that BOLI had expressed unconstitutional anti-religious hostility towards the Kleins and eliminated the fine. Yet, the court returned the case back to BOLI, which in July 2022, then reimposed damages of $30,000 on the Kleins.
This led to another trip up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the most recent development, the high court has once again vacated the ruling against the Kleins and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals of Oregon. There, the court will reconsider the Klein’s case in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, where it held that the government may not force individuals to express messages with which they disagree.
Shortly after the high court’s ruling, First Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford issued a statement on the decision.
“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,” Shackelford said.
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.
All told, there is new hope for the Klein’s religious freedom and free speech.
You can learn more about the Klein’s story in this brief video:
It’s tragic that the Klein’s business – and way of life – were casualties in Oregon’s crusade to impose its leftist orthodoxy upon sincere Christians like the Kleins. Please pray with us for the Kleins, that the Court of Appeals of Oregon will do the right thing and vindicate their constitutional rights once and for all.
The Daily Citizen will keep you updated on important developments in this case.
The case is Melissa Elaine Klein and Aaron Wayne Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
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Photo from First Liberty.