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Oregon Bakers Forced Out of Business Make Their Case Before Oregon Court of Appeals for Third Time

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January 30, 2024

News Release
 For Immediate Release: 1.30.24
Contact: John Manning, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Oregon Bakers Forced Out of Business Make Their Case Before Oregon Court of Appeals for Third Time

Attorneys explain how Aaron and Melissa Klein would serve everyone who visited their bakery but should not be forced to endorse messages that conflict with their beliefs.

Salem, OR—Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals again heard oral arguments in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.  Last June, the Supreme Court of the United States vacated an earlier decision by the state court that effectively forced Aaron and Melissa out of business for refusing to create a message that conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs.  It was the second time the Supreme Court struck the Oregon courts’ opinions in this case.  The Kleins are represented by First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray PLLC.

“Freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel to First Liberty Institute “The First Amendment protects all Americans, of different perspectives and beliefs, to not be forced to use their art to send a message with which they disagree.”

Melissa said, “We welcomed and served everyone in our bakery, but we could not endorse all messages. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build. We just want to be able to run our business without being forced to celebrate events that conflict with our religious beliefs.”

BOLI originally imposed a devastating $135,000 damage award against the Kleins for violating Oregon’s public accommodations statute after they declined to design and create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. Following a series of appeals, the Supreme Court in 2019 returned the case to Oregon for further consideration in light of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which held that government officials cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens.

The Oregon Court of Appeals determined that BOLI had demonstrated anti-religious hostility toward the Kleins and struck down the assessment of damages. However, the court then sent the case back to the same biased commission, BOLI, for further proceedings.  In July 2022, BOLI unilaterally reimposed a damage award of $30,000. The Kleins appealed.

In June 2023, the Supreme Court returned the case to Oregon again to reconsider in light of its decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

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First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
To arrange an interview, contact John Manning at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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