Wedding Photographer

Another redesign for Sweetcakes | WORLD

An Oregon appeals court on Wednesday ordered the state to reconsider damages awarded in a discrimination case filed in 2013 against Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. Two women have sued for emotional damages after the Kleins refused to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding. The embattled bakers, former owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa, are in a new round of litigation after being forced to close their business in 2015.

In a 37-page decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld its finding that the Kleins violated state non-discrimination law and that the law did not violate their religious freedom. But the judges said the state agency handling the Kleins’ case had shown hostility to their religious beliefs and should reconsider its $135,000 judgment against them.

Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer sued the Kleins in 2013 after a cake tasting in 2012 in which Aaron Klein informed Rachel that he couldn’t bake a cake for a gay wedding. In a later meeting with Rachel’s mother, who challenged him on his religious views, Aaron quoted Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.

With the help of the First Liberty Institute, the Kleins appealed a 2017 decision against them by the Oregon Court of Appeals. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court overturned the decision and asked the court to reconsider the case in light of its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, the court overturned a similar Colorado decision against baker Jack Phillips after state officials expressed hostility to his religious beliefs.

In overturning the damages award, the court criticized the district attorney for equating Aaron Klein’s religious beliefs with prejudice. “Given [the agency’s] overriding and multifaceted role in this case, it directly suggests a governmental preference for one religious perspective over another in what remains an ongoing and emotionally difficult discussion within American religious communities,” Judge Erin Lagesen wrote for a panel. of three judges.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering reviewing a 2021 federal appeals court ruling applying a similar non-discrimination rule to Colorado wedding photographer Lori Smith. Hopes are pinned on Smith’s case after the court refused to review a Washington Supreme Court decision against florist Barronelle Stutzman in June 2021. Stutzman ultimately agreed to sell her business to avoid millions of dollars in attorney’s fees and costs.

First Liberty’s Stephanie Taub said the court should not have limited the finding of bias to damages in the case.

“There was a bias that infected the whole decision, and the proper remedy would be to dismiss the whole case,” she said, noting the irony that despite this anti-Christian bias, the court sent the case back to the same agency for a redo. Taub said First Liberty would appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the United States Supreme Court.

For the Kleins, who no longer live in Oregon, the decade-long battle is not just about winning a case, but also about God’s faithfulness. “It’s definitely been hard on our family, it’s impacted our family,” Melissa Klein said in a 2018 interview after the court’s initial ruling against them. “But I can also say that God is so good and takes care of us.”