Originally published in Christian Examiner
Oregon bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein have received a record-breaking $390 000 in donations through Continue to Give from people who want to support them in their ongoing legal battle with the State of Oregon.
Jesse Wellhoefer, founder of the three-year-old Continue to Give crowdfunding web site, told the Washington Times the Sweet Cakes by Melissa fundraiser broke a record for donations for an individual when it hit the $352 500 level last week.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) ordered the Kleins on July 2 to pay $135 000 in “emotional damages” to a lesbian couple for whom they refused to provide a cake in 2013 for a same-sex commitment ceremony.c
The Kleins made their decision based on their religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman only. Same-sex marriage was illegal in Oregon in 2013 at the time the Kleins received and declined the cake order.
In addition to the fine, Oregon state officials threatened to place a lien against the Kleins’ home if the fine was not paid on time and imposed a gag order on the couple attempting to prevent them from publicly discussing the religious beliefs behind their refusal to provide the same-sex ceremony cake.
Following its motto of “Helping people help people,” Continue to Give, a self-described faith-based giving platform which services churches, missionaries, non-profits, individuals, and adopting parents, offered an account to the Kleins in May after GoFundMe closed an account opened for the Kleins less than one day after it was set up.
GoFundMe originally cited their policy against “formal charges in defense of heinous crimes” as a reason for the closure but changed the policy to “claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts” after critics complained the bakery owners had not been charged with a crime. The company allowed the Kleins to keep donations received before the account was removed.
Wellhoefer said his company received complaints about the Sweet Cakes by Melissa fundraising campaign along with requests to close it down. “Our response has been, ‘Thank you for your concern, have a great day and God bless you,'” he told the Washington Times.
Donations continue to come in, and as of press time, Continue to Give reports donations for the Kleins at 260 percent of the original $150 000 goal which is approximately $390 000.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which continues to receive online orders, had to close their storefront bakery in 2013 due to what Aaron Klein described as “economic terrorism” from LGBT activists who he said tried to use harassment to cut off all of the bakery’s business ties.
Aaron and Melissa vow to appeal the BOLI ruling with the Oregon Court of Appeal. “The first amendment guarantees my right to freedom of speech,” Aaron Klein said according to Portland, Oregon’s NBC Affiliate KGW. “We are looking forward to getting [the case] in a court that recognizes the constitution,” he said.
Continue to Give donors are wishing them well.
“We are so sorry you had to experience this miscarriage of justice. Hang in there and God bless you,” wrote one anonymous donor.
“Your kids will be able to look back one day and be so incredibly proud of their parents. Praying that God continues to give you his overwhelming peace and joy. We are behind you!” wrote another.
“We appreciate you standing firm for your Christian beliefs,” said another.
One donor concluded, “In this new post-christian [sic] society, it will be incumbent upon us to stand with and support our brothers and sisters whenever they fall victi