Attorneys for two Christian bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding argued Thursday before the Oregon Court of Appeals that the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries had violated their clients’ rights to religious freedom, free speech and due process.
Represented by First Liberty Institute, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein used to own a cake shop but were forced to shutter their business after backlash began brewing over their decision four years ago to turn away two customers who wanted cakes for their upcoming same-sex wedding.
Then in April of 2015, an administrative court made a preliminary decision to penalize the couple over their decision to not bake the gay wedding cake.
Three months later, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries finalized the order.
The Kleins tried at first to contest the fine but eventually paid it six months later. As of March, the money was reportedly locked in escrow pending their appeal.
Speaking Thursday with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the Kleins noted that they had never turned a customer away due to lifestyle choices.
“[W]e served everybody no matter who they were, every walk of life,” AaronKlein said. “That’s part of being open to the public.”
“These two women were in fact return customers,” his wife added, the premise being that their decision to not bake the cake was not rooted in their customers’ sexual orientation but rather in a religiously motivated desire to not actively participate in a gay wedding.
Klein complained, however, that the media has tried to claim otherwise in an attempt to impugn his and his wife’s character.
“We’ve seen a lot of false stories out there, a lot of things that totally mischaracterized us and what happened and really what it comes down to is, I mean, it’s really hard to find truth in media when it comes to things like this because there’s so much misinformation out there,” he said.
It was not known how soon the Oregon court would rule on the Kleins’ case, though their attorney Hiram Sasser suspected that either side would appeal no matter who lost, meaning the case could like go to the Supreme Court.
First Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford was nevertheless hopeful that reason would ultimately prevail.
“The government should never force someone to violate their conscience or their beliefs,” she said. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We hope the court will uphold the Kleins’ rights to free speech and religious liberty.”
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