The $135,000 Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined after discriminating against a same-sex couple has turned into a major net profit several times as much.
More than two years ago Sweet Cakes By Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The couple, Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer, filed a complaint with the State of Oregon, expressing the emotional upset that illegal refusal cost them. Later, they would also be forced to detail the death threats and other negative attention visited upon them by the Kleins' anonymous supporters who believe they were following the edicts of their Christian faith.
Late last month, after a lengthy legal battle - which at one point included the Kleins' lawyer asking for the proceedings to be stopped and the same-sex couple to be presented with a $200,000 bill for damages, and attorney and court fees, which was rightly denied - the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) decided in favor of the Bowman-Cryers, fining the Kleins $135,000.
But the lengthy, drawn out case gave plenty of time and opportunity for conservatives and the religious right to paint the Bowman-Cryers and the LGBT community as "fascists" and to generate a great deal of public sympathy for the Kleins, mostly via false statements, hyperbole, truth-twisting, and just straight-up lying.
That sympathy has turned into big bucks for the Kleins.
NCRM has reported before on the fundraising efforts promoted by religious extremists, from Franklin Graham to the American Family Association. A week ago donations to various fundraising campaigns came to about as much as the Kleins' $135,000 fine - which reportedly has yet to be paid. Now, those efforts have turned into a cash cow for the Kleins. Whenever they ultimately decide to cash out, they'll be rolling in the dough.
As we noted last week, Franklin Graham has been hosting a fundraising campaign for them via his Samaritan's Purse charity, and a GoFundMe campaign delivered reportedly about $60,000 after taxes before it was shut down, although some state that number was closer to $80,000.
Another fundraising campaign via Continue To Give last week had taken in over $55,000. Today, eight days later, that figure is about $345,000. Most of those donations appear to be anonymous, but Continue To Give lists 7,537 separate donations, an average of about $45 each.
The anti-gay hate group American Family Association has been promoting the fundraising campaign as a way to grow their own donor base, asking supporters to sign a petition linking to the Continue To Give campaign, while handing over their email addresses so AFA can later spam them. The petition also falsely claims a "gag order" is in place, generating even more sympathy for the Kleins.
The American Family Association is far from the only right wing group promoting the Kleins as religious celebrities. The Heritage Foundation, headed by the virulently anti-gay former U.S. Republican Senator Jim DeMint, put out this video earlier this year to give the Kleins the opportunity to explain how they don't hate gay people, just their weddings:
"There was never any intention on hurting these two girls, ever," Melissa says on camera. "We're not those type of people," she insists.
"We've been mischaracterized," Aaron Klein adds. "We've served gays on many occasions." In court documents he admitted to also quoting Leviticus 18:22 to Rachel Bowman-Cryer's mother after declining to bake the wedding cake.
"We're not those type of people." "We've been mischaracterized." Leviticus quotation notwithstanding.
So, $345,000, plus let's call it $60,000, and not counting any other cash from fundraising efforts like Graham's Samaritan's Purse and others, gives the Kleins $405,000. That's exactly three times the amount of the fine the people of Oregon imposed on them after discriminating against the Bowman-Cryers.
It's actually surprising how un-generous the Kleins' supporters have been. After all, to the far Christian right, they are heroes and martyrs who are standing up against the long arm of the law and gay "fascism."
By contrast, the owners of Indiana's Memories Pizza earlier this year merely told a reporter they couldn't, if asked, cater a wedding of a same-sex couple. A hypothetical that never came to pass. In return, conservatives and the religious right threw more than twice as much cash at the pizza purveyors - nearly $850,000.
The Oregonian, Sept. 30, 2015, reports "crowdfunding efforts ... have raised more than $500,000" on the Kleins' behalf.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the Klein's fine has not been paid despite the amount of money donated.
Image via The Heritage Foundation/YouTube
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