Bakery Owners Accused of Anti-Gay Discrimination Move to New "Religious Freedom" Legal Firm
In 2011 a woman and her mother walked in to Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a local Oregon bakery, to order a cake for the woman's wedding. Aaron Klein, upon learning that Rachel Cryer was engaged to marry Laurel Bowman – a woman – told them they don't bake wedding cakes for same-sex weddings, and the woman and her mother left, distraught. According to court documents, Rachel's mother returned shortly thereafter, and that's when Aaron Klein began citing Leviticus as his rationale for refusing them service.
Also according to court documents, Klein, after receiving a notice from the State of Oregon that discrimination charges had been filed, posted the document – which included the home address and contact information of the Bowman-Cryers – to Facebook, leading to countless death threats and other forms of harassment against the women and the two foster children they were attempting to adopt.
None of this will Aaron or Melissa Klein ever admit to in public, nor, likely, will their new attorneys.
The Kleins have received well over half a million dollars from concerned and supportive conservative Christians outraged that the husband and wife, "good Christians," "lost their business," or so the Kleins claim, and were themselves subjected to harassment.
The Kleins have also started a new business, of sorts: they are now stars on the religious freedom talk circuit, making the rounds to events sponsored by the likes of the Family Research Council and other anti-gay groups.
“The past three years have been devastating,” Melissa Klein says in a press release today from First Liberty, formerly the Liberty Institute. “Just because we couldn’t participate in an event that violated our religious beliefs, we lost our business. We were committed to serving everyone regardless of their circumstances at all other times.”
First Liberty in their press release describes Melissa Klein as the "former owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa," and to show just how much compassion the young couple deserve, First Liberty proudly has placed a photo of the Kleins in front of their van, their van that says, "Sweet Cakes by Melissa," with a web address: SweetCakesWeb.com. If you click on it you might be confused, because the Kleins, as you can see, are still very much in business.
Here's the top of the press release:
Notice it breathlessly claims the Kleins "were forced to shut down their bakery." It also claims they "lost their bakery for running their business according to their religious beliefs," and that this is a "high profile case involving religious liberty."
Which it is not, as the Kleins were ordered to pay the Bowman-Cryers $135,000 in damages, not fines, and not, contrary to what the right wing press and religious groups would like you to believe, because they refused to bake a wedding cake.
For the most detailed and comprehensive analysis of the case, read:
Almost Everything You've Heard About The Anti-Gay Sweet Cakes Wedding Cake Case Is (Probably) Wrong
The Kleins have apparently dropped their now-former attorney and, like elected officials who want to make big money after doing their stint of public service, have signed on to a top firm. The only difference is instead of a signing with a speakers firm, they've signed with a law firm. First Liberty, headed by the infamous Kelly Shackleford, says it is the "largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom."
But just like a speakers' firm, the Kleins have their own page at Fist Liberty, and you can even use it to "Book an interview" with them.
The Kleins also now have a proper big-name attorney, C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House Counsel under President George H. W. Bush. Gray reportedly sits on the boards of the uber-conservative Federalist Society and the Koch Brothers' Tea Party group FreedomWorks.
Although it's not in the press release, the far right wing website Breitbart claims the Kleins' new lawyers "add that there is a significant chance that this case may finally end up before the Supreme Court of the United States."
Images: Screenshots via First Liberty