Christian charity Samaritan's Purse is busy these days running international relief programs aimed at helping people abroad, including individuals and families impacted by the earthquake in Nepal — but the organization, which is run by evangelist Franklin Graham, is also fast at work stateside, trying to help business owners who say that the government is punishing them for standing by their Christian faith.
Graham has openly expressed his frustration over the plight faced by Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who gained national attention after they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013.
They could be forced to pay the women $135,000 for emotional damages — a lump sum that the Kleins say could put them “out on the street.”
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Graham called the recommended fine "alarming" and "unbelievable," especially considering that the family has already lost their cake shop and can't afford to pay such a massive sum.
Rev. Franklin Graham (AP)
"They have done nothing wrong, and their lives, along with their five children, have been turned upside down by this persecution. You can’t call it anything else," he wrote. "This is wrong, and it’s happening right here in our own country. Liberal judges and officials siding with the LGBT crowd are trying to make a point with the undeserved punishment of this family."
Graham encouraged Christians to pray for the Kleins, and he announced the creation of the "Persecuted Christians-USA Fund," which has been set up to help the bakers as well as any others who have faced similar scenarios.
"The fund was created to help persecuted Christians in the U.S., including Aaron and Melissa Klein," Samaritan's Purse said in a statement issued to TheBlaze. "It was only activated a little over a week ago and the organization has not yet announced any numbers."
The organization said that it is focusing its main efforts on Nepal recovery and that, as a result, no one is available to discuss the religious freedom campaign with TheBlaze. That said, Graham explained in his Facebook post why his organization is spearheading the effort.
"We’re all in real danger if something isn’t done to put a stop to this kind of deliberate targeting and malicious treatment of Christians," Graham wrote.
Samaritan's Purse launched its fundraising drive after a GoFundMe account that was set up on the Kleins' behalf reportedly raised over $100,000 in just nine hours to help the family pay its legal fees. But it was abruptly taken offline by the crowdfunding company, leading Graham to take action.
GoFundMe also removed a separate fundraiser for 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington state who was sued and found guilty of discrimination after refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding; she's at risk of losing her personal assets, as TheBlaze has reported, with her GoFundMe account having brought in $174,000 at the time of its removal.
The crowdfunding site said that the fundraisers violated their terms of service.
"The subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts," read a GoFundMe statement. "Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled."
It is unclear how much Samaritan's Purse has raised thus far, but the Christian charity is committed to helping the Kleins and others navigate the complicated legal battles they're facing. Find out more about the fundraising effort here.
As for the Kleins, they've continued to defend their position and to speak out against the recommended $135,000 fine they face.
“A government that can tell you what you have to do and what you have to say is pretty darn scary, and when they come at you and try to take everything you have because of it, well, I mean, that’s almost horrific,” Aaron Klein told The Church Boys podcast this week. “We are the average American family trying to live out the American dream and honor God in our life, and so, that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in.”
We'll leave you with that interview below:
(H/T: Charisma News)