Modern Sin: Holding On to Your BeliefPosted: May 1, 2015
Trying to put florists, bakers and others out of work for unapproved ideas about marriage
Charlotte Allen writes: On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that asks whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex couples to marry. Four days before the hearing, in Oregon, an administrative-law judge proposed a $135,000 fine against Aaron and Melissa Klein, proprietors of the Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, for the “emotional distress” suffered by a lesbian couple for whom the Kleins, citing their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, had declined to bake a wedding cake in 2013.
“Media sympathy for the Kleins’ claim that being forced to participate in a same-sex wedding would violate their consciences ranged from nonexistent to…nonexistent. A CNN headline dubbed the Kleins’ since-closed business the ‘anti-gay bakery’; the Huffington Post prefers ‘anti-gay baker.’”
Same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in Oregon when the Kleins made their decision. But the couple was found to have violated a 2008 Oregon law forbidding discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation.
“The victors have dropped their conciliatory stance. Bubonic plague-level hysteria surged through the media, academia and mega-corporate America in March after Indiana passed a law—modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—that would enable religious believers to opt out of universally applicable laws under some circumstances.”
Media sympathy for the Kleins’ claim that being forced to participate in a same-sex wedding would violate their consciences ranged from nonexistent to . . . nonexistent. A CNN headline dubbed the Kleins’ since-closed business the “anti-gay bakery”; the Huffington Post prefers “anti-gay baker.”
Supporters of the Kleins—who have five children and operated the bakery out of their home—quickly went on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to try to raise money to help the family pay legal fees and the fine, which still requires approval by the state labor commissioner. The effort managed to raise more than $100,000 in a few hours. But then, on Saturday night, GoFundMe abruptly shut down the online appeal because the Kleins’ case involved “formal charges.”
The Kleins join a small number of bakers, florists and photographers around the country, most of whom say they serve and even employ gays in their over-the-counter operations but who also insist that their Christian beliefs in man-woman marriage preclude their providing services to same-sex weddings. Those numbers will probably dwindle further: Many states are treating those acts of conscience as ordinary bigotry and, by levying or threatening fines, forcing those small business owners into costly and potentially ruinous litigation.
In Washington state, 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a $1,000 fine against her last month for refusing to arrange flowers for the same-sex wedding of a longtime customer; Ms. Stutzman had recommended another nearby florist instead.
Ms. Allen is the author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus” (Free Press, 1998).
- Andrew Napolitano on Indiana’s Clumsy Embrace of ‘Religious Freedom’ (reason.com)
- What Americans Think About Business Owners Who Refuse To Serve Same-Sex Weddings (dailysignal.com)
- Memories Pizza Reopens to Supportive Crowd, No Protesters, $840K in Donations (nationalreview.com)
- Arkansas governor urges changes to religious objection bill (cbc.ca)
- With Gay Marriage Case Pending, Religion Bills Gain Ground (abcnews.go.com)
- Indiana pizzeria fundraiser ends, nets $842,592 (wgntv.com)