Tuesday 18 June 2019

SCOTUS throws out $135,000 fine against Christian Oregon bakers... for now

The Supreme Court refused to take up a high-profile religious liberty case involving a family of Christian bakers on Monday and instead sent it back to the lower courts for re-examination.

The case of Aaron and Melissa Klein — whose Oregon-based bakery became a major focal point of the national debate about religious liberty and the LGBT movement — has been remanded to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also tossed out the Court of Appeals' previous decision to uphold a $135,000 fine against the couple because of their refusal to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony in 2013 by making a cake for it.

Those standing behind the Kleins are chalking up Monday's Supreme Court order (which can be found on the Supreme Court's website) as a big win.

"This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans," said First Liberty president, CEO and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford, whose organization is representing the Kleins along with Boyden Gray & Associates. "The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated."

The case is to be re-evaluated in light of the Supreme Court's June 2018 narrow decision in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which reversed a decision by the Colorado Court of appeals in a similar religious liberty case.

However, since and despite the 2018 ruling, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips has been sued multiple times for alleged discrimination. Earlier this year, the state of Colorado dropped a lawsuit it brought against Phillips for refusing to bake a cake for a gender transition just weeks after last year's ruling. Last week, the same transgender individual behind the previous lawsuit sued Phillips for allegedly refusing to sell a birthday cake; an attorney representing Phillips dismissed the claim as "yet another desperate attempt to harass" the baker.

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