Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Christian bakers who lost their business after refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, filed new documents Thursday with the Oregon Court of Appeals, hitting back at the lesbian couple's arguments that the Kleins were obligated to violate their religious beliefs in providing them service.
According to a press release made available to The Gospel Herald, the brief was filed by First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel for President George H. W. Bush. In it, the Kleins' lawyers challenge the argument that the government can force citizens to create art and engage in speech that goes against their religious beliefs.
"Should the government force Catholics to sculpt totems for Wiccan rituals, or feminists to photograph fraternity initiations, or pro-life videographers to film an abortion? Of course not," Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said. "No one should be forced to contribute to the celebration of an idea that goes against his or her beliefs."
The case began last July, when the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled the couple had discriminated against Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the lesbian couple who the Kleins declined to serve. The Kleins were ordered to pay the Bowman-Cryers a whopping $135,000 for physical, emotional, and mental damages, forcing the couple to close their bakery.
In response, the Kleins filed an appeal in April, challenging the decision; however, the Bowman-Cryers refused to back down, arguing the agency's ruling should stand.
In February, Aaron Klein told The Gospel Herald that he and his wife had served the Bowman-Cryers before, but could not assist with their wedding due to their belief in traditional marriage.
"We wanted to honor God with our business, and dedicated everything to him," Aaron said. "We believe in a Biblical definition of marriage, and we believe that we have the freedom of religion in this country."
Melissa also shared how the ordeal has been tremendously taxing on the couple and their children: "It was definitely very shocking and definitely put a hardship on our family," she said. "It hasn't been easy at all, I lost my business that I love. We both worked so hard to build up the business and to just have it gone like that has been devastating. It's been three years and I've still been really struggling with it. It hasn't been easy at all."
Despite the persecution they've experienced over the past few years, Melissa said that she and her husband still love those responsible. In fact, last August, they sent custom-designed cakes to 11 LGBTQ organizations bearing the message "I Love You."
"We just wanted to show our love," Melissa said of the gesture. "That was the best way that we knew how -- we serve everybody. The couple that [sued us] we served previously in the shop and we'd serve them again."
The Kleins' new legal brief was the last step before both parties head to the appeals court for oral arguments. First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys explained that giving into the court's demands simply isn't an option, as the implications of the Klein's case extend far beyond them.
"This is something that is broader than just these two people," Dys warned. "If it can happen to Aaron and Melissa at a bakery shop, it can happen to anybody at any level of employment at any business. The government should never be the ones coercing individuals into believing something that they don't believe. Or, for that matter, punishing them for believing it. All of America suffers when someone loses their religious liberty."