Donor web site suddenly halted
GRESHAM — In only a few hours on April 24, those nationally who support Gresham bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein in their religious freedom battle had donated most of the $135,000 the state mandates they pay a same-sex couple, but then the funding website was suddenly shut down.
The GoFundMe.com page had raised $100,000 when the California-based web site shut it down because it determined the “Support Sweet Cakes by Melissa” campaign to be in violation of the web site’s terms and conditions since the Kleins have been found in violation of Oregon law, The Oregonian reported.
In the meantime, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse ministry is inviting donations to the Kleins at www.samaritanpurse.org.
The GoFundMe.com effort had been set up by a supporter of the Kleins; Melissa Klein then mentioned it on Facebook earlier that day.
“Evidently GoFundMe has shut down our GoFundMe page and will not let us raise any money,” Melissa Klein later posted on Facebook. “Satan’s really at work but I know our God has a plan and wins in the end!”
It was earlier that day that an administrative law judge for the state Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued a proposed order that the Kleins pay the same-sex couple a total of $135,000 “for emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”
Of that amount, $60,000 would go to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 to Rachel Bowman-Cryer.
The BOLI judge, Alan McCullough, said the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery, discriminated against the women when the bakery in January 2013 declined to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding. The Kleins had cited their Christian beliefs about marriage as the reason for their decision.
The controversy has drawn huge attention nationally, and both sides claim they have been harassed and even received death threats.
Because of the resulting opposition and loss of revenue, the bakery, which had been operating in a storefront location, has moved into the Kleins’ home and Aaron Klein has had to secure other employment.
“We just found out that the judge has made his decision,” Melissa Klein posted on Facebook.
“He is ordering that we pay $135,000 in emotional damages. This money will not come from the business, but instead would have to be paid from money that should be going to pay for food and housing for us and our five children. (BOLI Commissioner) Brad Avakian has not had his final word on it and it may be increased. This amount will financially ruin us. Our government was put in place to protect the people, not to punish people because of their faith.”
According to The Oregonian, Lisa Watson of the Cupcake Jones bakery in Portland was disturbed that thousands of people were donating money to a business that had been found in violation of state law, so she started her own campaign to contact GoFundMe and report the Sweet Cakes campaign for violaing their terms of service.
In a post on her Facebook page, Watson said it was disgusting that so much money had been given by what she described as “anonymous cowards,” the newspaper reported.
McCulloch’s proposed order is not the last step in BOLI’s administrative process. Avakian has the final say on setting the amount of damages Once BOLI has issued that final order, the decision can be appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals.