US

Bakery That Refused To Serve Lesbian Couple Raises Record Amount On Crowdfunding Site

Alexis Gulino Contributor

Supporters of Sweet Cakes by Melissa have reportedly raised over $450,000 in a crowdfunding campaign for bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, who refused to bake a wedding cake based on their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage,according to the Oregonian, .

The page reads, “Let’s help the Kleins through this hard time as they fight for religious freedom; which they are not just fighting for themselves but for all of us as our freedoms are threatened.”

Since the page was launched on May 5, a plethora of online donors have contributed to raising a record amount on the Continue to Give site.

Jesse Wellhoefer, founder of the faith-based giving platform, said the Sweet Cakes effort has raised more than any previous campaign on behalf of individuals in the three-year-old crowdfunding website’s history, according to the Washington Times.

The Wisconsin-based website has previously handled fundraising for churches and nonprofit organizations. As of Thursday, more than 244 percent of the site’s original goal of $150,000 has been reached.

The Sweet Cakes campaign “was quiet a couple weeks ago, but it really picked up when the Supreme Court made its decision [legalizing same-sex marriage],” according to Wellhoefer. (RELATED: This Could Be The Next Big Supreme Court Gay Rights Case)

In a statement released on Wednesday, Melissa Klein said:

“We are humbled and thankful for the generosity and support of the American public. The amount shows that Americans all over this country are acting on their beliefs and loudly saying that they do not agree with a government that punishes people for their religious beliefs.”

“At this time, we do not know exactly how we will use the funds that have been donated to us because:  1) Since our business was shut down two years ago, we are continuing to face financial hardship 2) We are unsure at this time what other costs may be associated with our case in the future as we continue to stand strong for our freedom 3) We are seeking advice regarding how the government will tax the money we’ve been given and 4) We are waiting to see whether BOLI will stay the collection of the $135,000 (at an interest rate of 9%) during the appeal.” 

GoFundMe removed the Sweet Cakes campaign in April, claiming it ran afoul of terms of service prohibiting campaigns “in defense of formal charges or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts.” But GoFundMe allowed the Kleins to keep $109,000 raised on their behalf.(RELATED: Online Fundraiser For Oregon Bakery Removed After Gay Rights Activists Complain) 

Another website, Samaritan’s Purse has created a page which accepts donations to help persecuted Christians in the United States.

“They have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “Please pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”

Crowd funding efforts for the Kleins began in April, after administrative judge Alan McCullough, recommended they pay $135,000 in damages for a denial of service.

The decision came as a result of controversy that began in January 2013 when the bakery refused to service the brides because of their sexual orientation. In August 2013, Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman filed a civil rights complaint.

In July, the Oregonian reported that State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay Cryer and Bowman for their “emotional, mental, and physical suffering.”

“Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion,” the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries said in a news release.