Can the government force you to act against your conscience? To say or do something that directly conflicts with your religious beliefs? These are the key questions at the heart of our case for Melissa Klein, award-winning cake artist and owner of SweetCakes by Melissa. 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 and crafting this cake would force them to convey a message that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Simply because of this, they were forced to close their shop and endure violent death threats. Now, she is searching for justice and waiting for the courts to finally recognize her constitutional right to stand by her faith.
In early 2022, the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that the Oregon commission violated the Free Exercise Clause and didn’t act neutrally toward the Kleins’ religion. While the court struck the $135,000 damages award because of the Free Exercise violation, it still contended that the Kleins had violated the law and sent the case back to the same biased Oregon commission for further proceedings.
“Oregon is trying to have its cake and eat it, too,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty. “The Court admits the state agency that acted as both prosecutor and judge in this case was biased against the Kleins’ faith. Yet, despite this anti-Christian bias that infected the whole case, the court is sending the case back to the very same agency for a do-over. It’s time for the State of Oregon’s hostility toward Aaron and Melissa to end.”
Now, we plan to finally acheive Sweet Justice for the Kleins at the nation’s high court. By the end of Summer 2022, we plan to appeal the Kleins’ case to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will argue that the commission violated the Kleins constitutional rights by failing to provide them with due process and by trying to force the Kleins to create art that violates the Kleins’ religious beliefs.
“All Americans are entitled to due process, with a fair hearing before an unbiased tribunal. The Kleins never received that,” Stephanie Taub said. “We hope the Court will hear the Kleins case and clarify that all Americans have a constitutional right to due process, free speech, and religious liberty.”
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 buisnesses 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.