An Oregon couple embroiled in a years-long legal battle over the freedom of religious expression is hoping for a sweet ruling in its favor.
Attorneys with First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray & Associates have filed an appeal at the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of the family bakery "Sweet Cakes by Melissa."
It was January 2013 when the Kleins refused to take an order for a same-sex "wedding" cake – and the legal battle that ensued marked one of the country's first cases that pitted a business owner's religious views against non-discrimination laws that include homosexuals. The Oregon Court of Appeals late last year ruled against the Kleins, upholding a decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that resulted in a $135,000 penalty.
"This is a blow for the Constitution and the rule of law in this country, and I think it's a sad day in this country when people can be punished for their religious beliefs," First Liberty deputy general counsel Mike Berry told OneNewsNow at that time.
Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty, says the true test of a country's commitment to freedom is when its citizens welcome disagreement and live peaceably as neighbors regardless. "In its ruling, the Oregon Court of Appeals undermined America's promise of protection even for those forms of expression which may be unpopular," says Taub.
Meanwhile, Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says the Kleins are entitled to the Constitution's promises of religious liberty and free expression.
"As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said during recent oral arguments on a similar case, 'Tolerance is essential in a free society, and tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual.' Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others," Shackelford adds.
Since this case began, First Liberty says the Kleins – and those with whom they used to do business – have been targeted with hate mail, harassment and threats. That, along with the government's massive financial penalty, forced them to close their business in September 2013.