Yes, the Kleins were fined -- or, if you prefer, hit with a "civil penalty," which is the same thing -- for not baking a cake, the tortured sophistries of collectivist spin-control specialists to the contrary notwithstanding. Go here for the relevant details.
By declining to make a wedding cake for Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, Aaron Klein and his wife Melissa saved the lesbian couple roughly $350. This is a case in which discrimination on the part of a business materially benefited the supposed victims – even before a Soviet-grade “civil rights” bureaucrat in Oregon ordered the business owners to pay $135,000 to the aggrieved couple.
In January 2013, the Kleins, who operated a bakery called “Sweetcakes by Melissa,” turned down the couple’s business proposal. Within a few days, the would-be customers contracted with another bakery called Pastry Girl. The second vendor charged $250 to create the celebratory confection, a rather garish artifact “with three tiers that had a peacock’s body on top and the peacock’s tail feathers trailing down over tiers to the cake plate,” as described in the Final Ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).
Had they accepted the job, the Kleins “would have charged $600 for making and delivering the same cake.”Rachel Cryer offered her business to Sweetcakes because two years earlier the Kleins had designed and produced a wedding cake for her mother. If the Kleins had acted out of mercenary motivations rather than being governed by their religious convictions, Rachel and Laurel most likely would have settled for their first choice, rather than testing the market and quickly finding another vendor who produced the desired cake at less than half the price.
By forgoing the transaction, the Kleins paid a fairly sizeable “opportunity cost” in the service of their beliefs while inflicting no injury on Rachel and Laurel. In fact, they actually did the couple a considerable favor in light of the fact that they wanted a ceremony “as `big and grand as they could afford,’” according to the BOLI’s account. The hundreds of dollars saved on a cake were thus available to be spent on other facets of the event.
By declining to participate, however, the Kleins had hurt the couple’s feelings. As members of an officially recognized victim group in the People’s Republic of Oregon, Rachel and Laurel had the ability to summon official retaliation against someone whose opinions offended them. This also provided an opportunity for Rachel’s mother, Cheryl McPherson, a recovering “homophobe,” to display her righteousness.
After the awkward conversation in which Aaron Klein had explained that he and his wife had religious scruples against involvement in a same-sex wedding ceremony, Cheryl paid a second visit for the apparent purpose of persuading Klein to change his mind. She described to the BOLI how she told Aaron that “she used to think like him, but her `truth had changed’ as a result of having `two gay children.’” In reiterating his decision, Klein – who from all accounts was polite and otherwise deferential – reportedly referred to the proscription against homosexual conduct found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.
When she returned to the car where Rachel was waiting, Cheryl told her tearful daughter that Klein “had called her `an abomination.’” This was untrue: Cheryl’s sworn testimony made it plain that Klein had referred to an act, not to an individual, as an “abomination.” It was also counterproductive, assuming that the intent had been to console her daughter, rather than to exacerbate her sorrow and amplify her sense of outrage.
Cheryl drove Rachel back to the apartment she shared with Laurel and repeated the claim that Klein had described them as “abominations.” Laurel interpreted the act of refusing to make the cake as a statement that she was “a creature not created by God, not created with a soul,” that she and Rachael were “unworthy of holy love [and] not worthy of life” – conclusions based entirely on her own perceptions, rather than anything Klein had said or done. She was also concerned that exposure to Klein’s religious views “might negatively impact [Cheryl’s] acceptance of [her daughter’s] sexual orientation.”
That concern proved to be unfounded. Cheryl, filled with the zeal of a recent convert, was not about to apostatize, and she was eager to punish Klein for turning down an invitation to repent.
Before the day was out, Cheryl posted an online review of Sweetcakes advising gay couples to avoid the business “because they discriminate against gay people.” This was an entirely appropriate gesture by an unsatisfied consumer. A short time later Laurel filed a two-page complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice, which was an invitation for state-inflicted punishment of a heretic.
After being asked to create the cake for a lesbian couple, the owner “proceeded to say we were abominations unto the lord [sic] and refused to make [a] cake for us despite … having done business with us in the past,” Laurel claimed, retailing a version of the story that was both hearsay and untruthful. “We were then informed that our money was not equal, [and] my fiancé [was] reduced to tears. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Although this was described as a “consumer complaint,” it contained no allegation that the Kleins had defrauded them or failed to carry out the terms of a contract. After the DOJ informed them of the complaint, the Kleins posted a terse note on their Facebook page describing what had happened to them. Predictably, this triggered media interest in the story, which in turn led Rachel and Laurel to fear that the foster children each of them was raising “would be taken away from them by the state of Oregon’s foster care system,” relates the BOLI ruling.
Once again, those fears were not provoked by anything the Kleins had done, or refused to do, but rather by the prospect of dealing with a capricious state bureaucracy.
This underscores a fact that has been largely ignored by coverage of this case: At the time Rachel and her mother approached the Kleins to make a wedding cake, the State of Oregon did not validate same-sex marriages.
In response to the couple’s complaint, Brad Avakian, Commissar of the Bureau of Labor and Industry, promised a “fair and thorough investigation to determine whether there’s substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination.” (Emphasis added.)
Note Avakian’s use of the qualifier “unlawful.” If the Kleins had said that they wouldn’t participate in a ceremony not legally recognized by the state, this would have been an act of responsible citizenship, rather than invidious discrimination. The Kleins were targeted by Oregon’s apparatus of coercive attitude adjustment because of Aaron’s candid expression of their religious commitment, which is based on an allegiance to a Higher Authority than the political government.
This meant that the Kleins had compounded their sin against Tolerance with blasphemy against the State. The consequences were entirely predictable.
Avakian is not a judicial official. He is an elected functionary who received substantial contributions during the 2012 campaign from a pressure group called Basic Rights Oregon, with whom he remained in contact as the case against the Kleins proceeded. As a state senator he had supported the Oregon Equality Act, a measure passed in 2007 that outlaws anti-gay discrimination in “public accommodations.” As Commissar of the BOLI, he would be the “final arbiter” of any case involving alleged discrimination.
The “fair and thorough investigation” by the BOLI was a pseudo-judicial proceeding in which the agency itself was the plaintiff. The agency was represented by prosecutors Jenn Gaddis and Cristin Casey, both of whom it employs. And although Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough presided over the hearings, the final ruling was issued by Commissar Avakian. If he were a judge, Avakian would have had to recuse himself owing to his ongoing collaboration with Basic Rights Oregon. As the commissar of Oregon’s anti-discrimination soviet, Avakian faces no accountability for such unethical behavior.
The role of the “victims” in this case was to itemize the various ways in which they had experienced “emotional and mental suffering” as a result of exposure to religious views they found offensive. Every fleeting tremor of frustration, anger, self-pity, or hostility on their part was used as evidence against the Kleins, and assigned a cash value. Without the benefit of an examination by a medical professional or other competent clinician, Avakian concluded that Rachel and Laurel were entitled to $135,000 as compensation for injuries visible only to anointed oracles of social justice.
Already facing financial ruin, the Kleins have been forced to shut down their store, and now operate a home-based business that cannot be categorized as a “public accommodation. Nonetheless, they have been ordered not to publicize their intention to refrain from making wedding cakes for same-sex couples in the future, or to express support for such “discriminatory” practices. This is tantamount to a gag order, given that they would face prosecution for defending their right to refuse business to potential customers.
Several months before the case reached its preordained conclusion, Avakian explained that his objective had been to “rehabilitate” the Kleins. The use of that expression is telling: Rehabilitation is the process of repairing an injury. If Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman were the injured parties, why were Aaron and Melissa Klein forced to undergo “rehabilitation”?
In a celebratory press release, Commissar Avakian pretends that the Kleins had somehow infringed Rachel and Laurel’s “ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry.” Nothing the Kleins did or refused to do fettered that couple in any way – unless we are to assume that the knowledge that some people didn’t approve of their union was an unacceptable burden to them.
Mencken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Commissar Avakian and his comrades are similarly haunted by the thought that someone, somewhere within their jurisdiction harbors unacceptable opinions– and as their treatment of Aaron and Melissa Klein demonstrates, they are possessed of a puritanical zeal to bludgeon the “bigotry” out of less enlightened souls.
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