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Christian bakers pay fine, continue appeal

GRESHAM, Ore. (BP) — Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have paid the state of Oregon a fine of nearly $137,000 after refusing to violate their religious beliefs by baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, the Oregonian newspaper reported.

The Kleins paid the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries $136,927.07 Dec. 28 with money contributed through a crowdfunding page after the Oregon labor commissioner seized just weeks before Christmas their personal bank accounts which totaled nearly $7,000, the Oregonian said. In total, the Kleins have paid nearly $144,000 and may be due a refund.

An Oregon administrative law judge fined the Kleins $135,000 in April 2015, accusing them of violating state law protecting the rights of homosexuals when the couple refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer in January 2013. The Kleins had asked the state to postpone collecting the fine, upheld on appeal in July 2015, while they continued the appeal process, but the request was twice denied.

Payment of the fine and accrued interest does not cancel the appeal, expected to be heard this year before the Oregon Court of Appeals, said Rural Business Attorneys, representing the Kleins.

Paying the fine helped the Kleins avoid additional interest and penalties, attorney Tyler Smith told the Oregonian.

The bureau “was attempting to charge interest rates of 9 percent, equating to $35 a day, and seeking to garnish any assets of the Kleins so they couldn’t earn interest on the money that had been donated to them,” the Oregonian quoted Smith. “The prudent thing to do, given the generosity of people who have contributed funds, was to take care of it and continue the fight.” Supporters have contributed about $500,000 to the couple’s defense, according to reports.

In court documents the Kleins affirm their refusal to bake the cake for Bowman and Cryer was not based on sexual orientation but on the Kleins’ Christian beliefs dictated by Scripture and protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“By profession, Aaron and Melissa Klein were and now are committed Christians who believe that they should live out their faith in the way they conduct their business and all other areas of their lives in accordance with the religious principles, guided by the Bible,” reads a legal motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of the Kleins. “In particular, they believe that the Bible prohibits them from participating in activities they understand to be contrary to biblical principles, including marriage ceremonies involving same sex couples. For the same reasons, Respondents have not created, and would not create, cakes for a variety of other events, including celebration of divorce, any message with profanity or coarse language or a message advocating harm or ill will to another.”

The Kleins had served homosexual customers in the past, they said, but drew the line at baking a wedding cake. Bowman and Cryer held a commitment ceremony in 2013 and were married in 2014 after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Kleins, parents of five children, have since closed their bakery in 2013 and began selling baked goods from their home.