Kleins | Cases | First Liberty

Case History

Aaron and Melissa Klein owned and operated a family bakery, “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” in Gresham, Oregon. In 2013, a woman asked Aaron and Melissa to make a custom-designed cake for her same-sex wedding. As devout Christians, Aaron and Melissa believed that crafting a message to celebrate the wedding would violate their faith, so they declined to create a custom wedding cake.  Every cake Aaron and Melissa made in their bakery was custom designed.

In response, the State of Oregon targeted the religious speech of the Kleins: It forced Aaron and Melissa out of business by penalizing them $135,000 for refusing to create a government-approved message and then issued a gag order, preventing them from even talking about their actual beliefs.  Aaron and Melissa appealed the ruling from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to the Oregon Court of Appeals in April 2016. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the decision of BOLI, though it reversed the gag order.  On October 19, 2018, First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray & Associates filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.

What is this case about?

The Supreme Court has long protected the right to differ. Recently, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court only reminded the state that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens.  In this case, the Court has the opportunity to resolve the most critical issue the Masterpiece Court left unresolved: whether the government can compel citizens to create a message contrary to their religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, Masterpiece left American business owners wondering whether the government can prescribe what they believe and force them to confess accordingly.  However, freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message.  In this case, the Supreme Court can clarify whether speech is truly free if it is government mandated. Free Americans should not be compelled by the government to create a message that conflicts with their deepest convictions.

The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government.  In other words, the government cannot bankrupt a business because the owner’s religious speech is unpopular. It’s perfectly reasonable for people of faith to operate their business according to their beliefs, without fear of the government compelling them to create a message contrary to their religious convictions. The Constitution prohibits government officials, high or petty, from compelling business owners to create a message contrary to their religious beliefs.

By forcing Aaron and Melissa to create a message and participate in a wedding that violates their faith, the Oregon government violates Aaron and Melissa’s First Amendment rights.


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NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release: 10.22.18

Contact: Lacey McNiel, lmcniel@firstliberty.org

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

Oregon Bakers Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Free Speech

First Liberty attorneys file appeal seeking review of Oregon’s decision to compel the speech of Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them out of business


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Attorneys for First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray & Associates today filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of Aaron and Melissa Klein.  The petition asks the Court to reverse the State of Oregon’s decision that forced Aaron and Melissa out of business by penalizing them $135,000 for refusing to create a government-approved message.

A copy of the petition can be found here.

“Freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message,” said Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty. “This case can clarify whether speech is truly free if it is government mandated.”

Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, of Boyden Gray & Associates, who is also a First Liberty network attorney, said, “Free Americans should not be compelled by the government to create a message that conflicts with their deepest convictions.”

The Supreme Court has long protected the right to differ. Recently, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court only reminded the state that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens.  In this case, the Court has the opportunity to resolve perhaps the most critical issue the Masterpiece Court left unresolved: whether the government can compel citizens to create a message contrary to their religious beliefs.

The State of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) found that Aaron and Melissa violated Oregon’s public accommodations statute after they declined to design and create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage.  In addition to the $135,000 penalty for “emotional damages,” BOLI issued a gag order, preventing them from even talking about their actual beliefs.  As a result, the Kleins were forced to shut down their bakery. Aaron and Melissa appealed the BOLI ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals in April 2016. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the gag order but otherwise upheld the decision of BOLI.

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 – 06/24/18
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

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