The ongoing saga surrounding an Oregon-based bakery's decision to refuse a wedding cake for a lesbian couple has had some noteworthy developments of late. Over the weekend, we reported that, following intense scrutiny and furor among gay rights advocates, Aaron and Melissa Klein were forced to close their bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
In an interview with TheBlaze on Wednesday, Melissa talked about the future of her business, her faith and the ongoing attacks that have continued to unfold. She also detailed a eerie alleged break-in that she believes is likely tied to the family's very public battle and offered some advice for those who fear the cost of standing by their convictions.
If you've been following the story you know that, at the center of the debate, there are two divergent worldviews. On one side are the Kleins, Christians who say that they love everyone, but simply do not wish to support same sex marriage ceremonies by baking cakes for gay couples. On the other side are Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, the lesbian couple who filed a grievance with the state of Oregon after the bakers refused their request for a wedding cake earlier this year.
One party maintains that it has every right as business owners to exercise its religious liberty, while the other believes that discrimination on the part of businesses shouldn't be permitted. It's a complicated case that has riled emotions on all sides.
Saying Goodbye to the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Shop
Melissa told TheBlaze that she moved everything out of her shop in Gresham, Ore., on Sunday, officially shuttering the business that she and her husband spent years building. Her plan, as we reported, is to transition back to a home bakery. With five children, though, she said she's not sure how a home bakery will fare. But considering what has unfolded, Melissa is forced to start over.
In May 2013, the baker's problems went viral after she refused to make a cake for Cryer and Bowman's ceremony. After media outlets across the nation picked up the story, the Kleins were inundated with angry e-mails and phone calls. In the end, Melissa said that this reaction resulted in a major loss of business.
"Just the whole being affected big time in our wedding industry part of the business -- the vendors not referring us any more," Melissa said when asked how the incident impacted her business. "We coasted it through the summer to see how it would be. We had quite a few wedding cakes that we had booked and people cancelled. The referrals that we would get, none of those came in."
In past years, Melissa said that the family had a good cushion and that the majority of their money would come in during wedding season each summer. While this would carry the business through the winter, the stark reality was that the family's current financial situation and the dearth of orders meant that closing the shop was a necessity, as Melissa said that she and Aaron were struggling to meet financial commitments each month.
"We had to let people go so we could try to save money," she said. "It was a gradual thing that led us to say, 'This is getting too hard' -- and our community where we live is not the most conservative. We didn't get a lot of support from our fellow community people that lived in Gresham."
Melissa believes that the battle with activists over their Christian views on gay marriage really sparked a lot of her business problems. Many regular customers seemingly boycotted, having a detrimental impact on Sweet Cakes by Melissa's future.
Harassment and Businesses Challenges Are Far From Over
The transition to a home business may also hit some snags, though -- and it's not simply because the family has five children at home. Melissa noted that there are boycott pages setup on social media, urging people to protest her new operations.
One Facebook page called, "Boycott Sweet Cakes by Melissa" has over 500 "likes" and has actively spoken out against the couple (interestingly, Melissa's own business page has ballooned to over 7,600 "likes" during recent months). The baker fears that bullying tactics will be used to hamper her home business as well.
"They're already planning to harass me," she told TheBlaze. "They're just continuously doing this. They just don't want me to be in business at all."
A screen shot from the Boycott Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page
But the harassment has also come in some very eerie forms, Melissa claims. In the early morning hours on Monday, the baker claims that someone broke into the Sweet Cakes truck, a vehicle the family uses to advance its business. The truck was parked in the Kleins' driveway. This was particularly nerve-wrecking for Melissa and Aaron, astheir home, where the truck was located, is in a highly secluded area -- one that is nowhere near where their former shop.
"Somebody came up into our driveway and rummaged through our truck and took stuff out," she said. "The really strange thing is, they didn't steal anything, they just made a mess. It kind of was a little creepy."
The culprit didn't take any money, she said, which was also odd, as the truck contained cash. While she's definitely shaken by the incident, Melissa said that she feels safe, as her husband is a hunter who is trained to use a firearm. When he's home, she's fine, but when Aaron is out of the house, Melissa admitted that she does get a little scared.
The Ongoing Impact
In addition to losing their business, the Klein family has been impacted in other ways. Their children are now homeschooled -- a decision that Melissa said she made this year following the media firestorm that erupted. And in light of the bakery's closure, Aaron has gone back to work to help provide for the family.
The harassing e-mails haven't stopped either. Melisa shared just a few of the messages she has received of late:
- One message with the subject line "racist maggots" read, "People like you will burn in HELL, you racist pigs."
- Another read, "Your homophobic rants will not be forgotten and you will go out of business. This is the 21st century, a**holes."
- And another: "Do everyone a favor and fall off a cliff."
- One individual made it very personal: "Honey it would take a lot to make your ugly a** look good! You are ugly inside and out!"
- And finally: "Maybe your god will send you some cat food to eat when you are living on the street?"
And those are just a few of the messages received over the past few days. Negative social media comments, too, have abounded.
A Positive Outlook
With all of the bad, has come some good, though. While Melissa is sad that people have continuously called her a hateful and mean person -- labels she flatly denies -- her church has been highly supportive, with people sending letters and offering up words of encouragement. The baker also believes that her faith has been restored and sustained throughout the ordeal.
"It is so worth it just to sit back and watch how God provides for you. I struggled in the past with trust and even with my faith in Him and through this my faith has grown, my trust has grown tremendously," Melissa told TheBlaze, offering up advice to those who fear the cost of standing by their convictions. "Yeah, I have lost something I worked really hard for and lots of years put into, but I know that really doesn't matter. My eternal home is what matters. I'm not going to bring all that with me...I'm happy and okay and I'm being provided for."
Sweet Cakes by Melissa is still being challenged by Cryer and Bowman and the business could end up being forced to pay thousands to the couple if the discrimination complaint is substantiated by the State Bureau of Labor and Industries. The civil penalty would potentially be $1,000 per violation and up to $50,000 for emotional damage for each person refused service.