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 asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review the case.
In June 2019, the Court vacated the state court’s decision, and sent the case back to the state to be reviewed again in light of the Masterpiece decision.
In its 2018 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court reminded the state that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens.
By vacating the Oregon ruling, the Court is reiterating that it is serious about combating anti-religious hostility frequently committed by state agencies, such as the Colorado agency in the Masterpiece case, and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in this case.
In its decision to send the Klein case back to Oregon for further review, the Court reaffirmed an essential principle of fairness. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial before an unbiased judge. Our clients, the Kleins, didn’t have that opportunity in Oregon.
Beyond that, it’s time for government officials to get the message that they cannot punish religious Americans for simply having a viewpoint with which they disagree. The true test of our commitment to freedom is whether we welcome disagreement and live peaceably as neighbors anyway. The Supreme Court seems to be sending a message to lower courts that America’s promise of protection applies even for those forms of expression which may be unpopular.
For Immediate Release: 6.17.19
Contact: Lacey McNiel, firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Oregon’s Decision to Penalize Bakers for Exercising Free Speech
First Liberty attorneys filed appeal seeking review of Oregon’s decision to compel the speech of Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them out of business
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it reversed a decision the state of Oregon that forced bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein out of business by penalizing them $135,000 for refusing to create a government-approved message. The case was sent back to the Oregon courts for further review in light of its Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Kleins are represented by First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray & Associates.
“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel to First Liberty. “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”
Former Ambassador to the European Union, C. Boyden Gray and Adam Gustafson, of Boyden Gray & Associates, First Liberty network attorneys, are the lead appellate counsel for the case.
In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Justices reminded government officials that they cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens.
The State of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) found that the Kleins had violated Oregon’s public accommodations statute after Aaron and Melissa declined to design and create 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 in December 2017.
To learn more about the case, visit KleinFacts.com.
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Legal Files for Oregon Supreme Court
Legal Files for Oregon Court of Appeals
Legal Files for U.S. Supreme Court
Amicus Briefs in Support of Klein Cert Petition