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Meet Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron, Melissa and their five children live in Northwestern Oregon. In 2007, they fulfilled their dream of opening a family bakery, called “Sweet Cakes by Melissa.”

“When we opened the shop we thought it would be a great way to provide for our children,” Aaron said.

For Melissa, the bakery was an opportunity to express her creativity. “When I bake a cake, it becomes my canvas,” she said. “I love getting to pour myself into cakes to create something unique and special for every customer who comes to us.”

Melissa dreamed that her children would be able to take over the shop one day—but that dream was shattered only a few years later.

A Request for a Wedding Cake

In January 2013, a woman came to the bakery and requested a wedding cake for her same-sex wedding. The woman was a return customer, who had come to the bakery previously to order a cake for another event. She had such a positive experience at Sweet Cakes that she wanted Melissa to make her wedding cake.

Melissa and Aaron are devout Christians who are committed to following the teachings of their faith. Aaron Klein explained that by making a wedding cake, they would be endorsing something that violated their religious beliefs, which is something they could not do.

Punished for Religious Beliefs

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), a state administrative agency, came after the Kleins personally, ordering Aaron and Melissa to pay a $135,000 penalty.

Additionally, BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian issued a gag order against the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from saying that they will not participate in a same-sex wedding or otherwise talk about their desire to run their business according to their faith.

In the meantime, the Kleins were targeted with hate mail, harassment, and threats. Business declined, and in September 2013, their bakery storefront was forced to close its doors. As a result, in order to provide for his family, Aaron went to work as a garbage collector to make ends meet.

“For us to lose the bakery was really crushing,” said Melissa. “We worked so hard to build it up. We poured our heart into it. It was my passion. To have it taken away like that was really devastating.”

First Liberty Institute Legal Action

First Liberty Institute, along with Ambassador Boyden Gray (former White House Counsel for President George H.W. Bush, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren), appealed the Kleins’ case to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

First Liberty and Boyden Gray filed a brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals on behalf of the Kleins on April 25, 2016, arguing that Commissioner Avakian and the State of Oregon violated the Kleins’ rights to free speech, religious freedom, and due process. Read a summary of the arguments made in the brief.

The Oregon Court of Appeals heard the Klein’s case on March 2, 2017. On December 28, 2017, the court issued its opinion. Although the judges agreed to lift the gag order, the court upheld the decision of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that leveled a $135,000 penalty on the Kleins. Read the decision here.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We are disappointed that the court ruled against the Kleins.”

 

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: December 28, 2017

Contact: Lacey McNiel, lmcniel@firstliberty.org

Cell: 972-989-2403, Direct: 972-941-4444

COURT RULES AGAINST FAMILY WHO LOST THEIR BAKERY FOR NOT MAKING SAME-SEX WEDDING CAKE
With exception of gag order, court affirms agency’s decision against First Liberty Institute’s clients.


Salem, Ore. – Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued its decision in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa who were represented by First Liberty Institute. The court ruled against the Kleins, upholding a decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that resulted in a $135,000 penalty and led to the closure of the family-run bakery. Read the decision here.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We are disappointed that the court ruled against the Kleins.”

The case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, was heard before a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals. First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, represents the Kleins in their appeal along with former President George H. W. Bush White House Counsel Boyden Gray. The attorneys say they will review the decision and consider their options for further appeal with the Kleins.

Read more about the Kleins’ case at KleinFacts.com.

About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel, Media Coordinator for First Liberty Institute. Email:lmcniel@firstliberty.org, Direct: 972-941-4444, Cell: 972-989-2403

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To download a copy of this press release, click here.


Press Releases

First Liberty Press Release – 02/23/16

First Liberty Press Release – 04/25/16

Fact Sheet for Klein Opening Brief for Oregon Court of Appeals – 04/25/16

First Liberty Press Release – 09/8/16

First Liberty Media Alert – 02/28/17

First Liberty Press Release – 03/2/17

First Liberty Press Release – 09/8/17