At the heart of this conflict are a few key questions: Can the government force you to act against your conscience? To say or do something that directly conflicts with your religious beliefs? Melissa Klein, award-winning cake artist and owner of SweetCakes by Melissa is looking for answers. Former owner, that is—because the Oregon government decided to penalize her $135,000 and tell her she needed “rehabilitation” for simply running her family business according to her religious beliefs.
The Kleins declined a request to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, citing that designing this cake would force them to convey a message that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Because of this, they were forced to close their shop and endure violent death threats.
The Supreme Court of the United States has vacated a lower court decision that forced Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein out of business by penalizing them for refusing to create a government-approved message that was in conflict with their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a lower court decision that forced Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein out of business by penalizing them for refusing to create a government-approved message that was in conflict with their religious beliefs. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries originally imposed a devastating $135,000 damage award against the Kleins for violating the state’s public accommodations statute after they declined to design and create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.
“It’s a win when the Supreme Court vacates a bad lower court decision like it did for Aaron and Melissa, but the case is not over,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel to First Liberty. “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.”
The latest U.S. Supreme Court order gives Aaron and Melissa another opporrunity to fight their case in the state courts. This is positive—but it also means this decade-long legal battle is far from over.
The Supreme Court is sending the case back to the lower courts with clear direction: they must rexamine the Kleins’ case in light of the recent ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. In that decision, the Court held that government may not force creative business owners to speak messages that violate their beliefs.
Artistic expression—like her faith—has always been in Melissa’s DNA. As she puts it: “For me, it was so gratifying to know that I was contributing to the most important day in people’s lives, while at the same time doing what I loved most – creating art as a way of expressing my faith.”
Running her family bakery was much more than just a business to Melissa Klein. It was her passion, her artistic expression, a second home—and a legacy she and her husband even hoped to pass on to their 5 children. In her own words, it was a “dream come true.” And since the opening of SweetCakes by Melissa in 2007, Melissa had always been happy to serve everyone who entered her shop—she simply couldn’t endorse messages that conflicted with her faith such as cakes with profanity, cakes celebrating divorce, or cakes advocating harm to others.
When the State of Oregon decided that she was wrong for running her business according to her faith, that dream came to a crashing halt. “Having to shut down the shop was devastating,” said Melissa. “Watching something our family had worked so hard on for years to build just disappear in such a short time—it crushed me. I felt like I’d lost a part of myself.”
After 9 long years of zig-zagging through the court system, Melissa is finally ready for success at the Supreme Court. So, what are the key ingredients that need to fall into place now? And how exactly did a kind-hearted mother of 5 who was simply following her faith in running her business become a target for hate, harassment, and violent death threats?
Find out the details by downloading your own copy of Melissa Klein’s Recipe for Success—complete with an exclusive recipe for Melissa’s famous Zesty Lemon Cupcakes!
For the Kleins, and for thousands of other faith-based small business owners, the implications of this case are immensely important. At stake is whether the government can force anyone in America to choose between their faith and their livelihood, and whether government officials have the legal authority to force Christian-owned businesses to close if the business declines to participate in an event that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The Constitution is quite clear. It requires government officials to abide by a strict standard of religious neutrality and respectful tolerance of the religious beliefs of Americans. As Justice Kennedy explained in the Supreme Court’s 2018 NIFLA decision: “Government must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief.”
Now, we have the chance to finally secure victory for all faith-based businesses by winning at the Supreme Court. It’s time for the State of Oregon’s hostility toward the Kleins to finally be at an end.
As Melissa and her family continue this 9-year journey, they need your support now more than ever to help them finish the fight.
They have remained remarkably strong throughout the process, in a true testament to the character of Melissa and her husband Aaron. As Melissa puts it: “Whenever I ask myself if I would do it all over again, the answer is always yes—yes I would. Standing firm by my beliefs, and living out those beliefs, is that important to me.”
To remain so steadfast in their commitment to their faith amidst such incredible hardship is an inspiring example to us all, whether you share her faith or not.
Please take a moment to write a message of encouragement for Melissa and her family today. We need to let this kind-hearted, hardworking mother of 5 know that her fellow Americans have her back in this fight.