An attorney for Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa — the Oregon-based bakery that came under fire for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple — says that the fight is nowhere near over after the couple paid out a $136,927.07 judgement.
Lawyer Tyler Smith, who is representing the husband and wife, said that the family will continue its quest for religious liberty, telling The Church Boys podcast that he believes the government’s “abuse of power” has been the most shocking element of the ongoing case.
“[The most shocking component is] the abuse of the power of the government to go and prosecute this case, prosecuting it directly, contrary to what’s asserted by the Kleins as their religious practices and their beliefs,” Smith said. “And that being completely ignored by the state agency, when they’re prosecuting based on a statutory classification that this is now a protected status under a statute, when the Kleins have clearly protected constitutional rights that should supersede that and be more protected than a statutory right.”
He said that it is “quite shocking” that state officials and prosecutors have ignored these facts, penalizing the Kleins for “compensatory damages for emotional, mental and physical suffering” over the cake refusal.
Listen to Smith discuss the Sweet Cakes by Melissa battle for religious liberty below:
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Smith also responded to some of the questions that have emerged surrounding the Kleins’ decision to pay the judgment, as some critics have wondered if it is a sign that the Christian bakers are backing away from their battle for religious liberty; he said that this simply isn’t the case.
In fact, the Kleins have filed an appeal and plan to continue pushing back against the monumental financial penalty. But the logistics of continuing their refusal to pay out the judgement simply became too complex and burdensome.
“There was a garnishment action that took place a few weeks ago,” Smith explained. “A couple of accounts were garnished … with the judgment essentially outstanding those collection efforts would probably have continued during the course of the appeal.”
The issue is that, at 9 percent interest on the initial $135,000 judgement, the Kleins would have faced interest of about $35 per day, and with the case continuing on — and with the state seeking assets through garnishment — the family was left with little choice.
To avoid increased interest in the case, the Kleins agreed to pay the $136,927.07, which is currently being held in an account by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, and will presumably not be doled out to the lesbian complainants until the case concludes.
“The Kleins have certainly not given up the appeal,” Smith said. “The appeal has already been filed.”
It’s unclear how long the Kleins’ legal battle will forge on, as Smith said that he plans to argue in court that a “number of constitutional violations” unfolded against the bakers at the hands of the state.
“The appellate process is the place that we will be able to make other and more continuing constitutional arguments asserting and trying to protect the religious liberty, the free speech rights and the other rights that the Kleins have and they should have under Oregon law and United States constitutional law,” he said.
If the Kleins win, the government could be forced to return the $136,927.07, though it’s quite possible that the state will appeal in that instance. Plainly stated: this battle could go on for quite some time.
In the meantime, Smith said that the Kleins — who closed their bakery in the midst of national furor — must continue to provide for their five children, noting that the couple has received generous support from people across the nation.
Smith believes that the case is “keyed up to make some precedent,” pending what happens next in the courts.
As TheBlaze previously reported, problems for the Kleins began in 2013 after they declined to make a wedding cake for lesbian couple Rachel Cryer-Bowman and Laurel Bowman-Cryer based on the bakers’ religious views; the government subsequently awarded damages to the women.
The Kleins were originally ordered to pay the money to the couple on July 13, but repeatedly declined to do so until earlier this month.
“In my heart, I felt like if we give anything we are giving in and giving up this fight and setting this precedent for the next person in line,” Melissa Klein told TheBlaze earlier this year. “We’re still fighting this.”
Listen to the Kleins discuss their case in an appearance on The Church Boys earlier this year below:
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