Flour Power: Bakers Stick to Beliefs Despite Pressure
In a politically correct world, the costs of running a business are a lot more than dollars and cents. For Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of a small Oregon bakery, the price is their First Amendment rights. Their dream of opening a dessert shop near Portland, Oregon turned into a nightmare when two lesbians refused to take "no" for an answer on their request for a same-sex "wedding" cake.
Exactly one year ago, the Kleins explained that they couldn't take the order because it would violate their faith to participate in a same-sex "marriage" ceremony. Furious, the women filed a complaint with the state. The story made national headlines, as the young couple became another face in the war on religious liberty. "We still stand by what we believe from the beginning," Aaron told reporters. "I'm not sure what the future holds, but as far as where we're at right now... it's almost as if the state is hostile toward Christian businesses."
And the state isn't the only one. After word spread, the harassment in the liberal suburb of Portland became too much to take. The Kleins were forced to close the shop in Gresham and operate out of their home. Even there, the family was a target. Activists broke into their company truck and painted "bigot" across the side.
Now, 12 months later, the state of Oregon is weighing in -- and not on the side of free speech and free exercise. Investigators from the state Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled late last week that the couple was guilty of discrimination and ordered the Kleins to settle. If they refuse, the Bureau threatens to bring "formal charges." Herbert Grey, the bakers' attorney, was flabbergasted. "They're being punished by the state of Oregon for refusing to participate in an event the state of Oregon does not recognize." Even the state constitution defines marriage the same way as Aaron and Melissa -- and they're being persecuted.
While the couple debates their next move, surrender is not an option. In a Facebook post to her 12,000 fans, Melissa thanked people for their support. "I know that your prayers are being heard. I feel such a peace with all of this that is going on. Even though there are days that are hard... we still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands."
Meanwhile, same-sex "marriage" isn't legal in Illinois until June 1st, but business owners are already bracing for it. Jim Walder hasn't allowed a civil union ceremony at Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast since its inception -- and he doesn't plan on changing that policy any time soon. "As long as I own Timber Creek, there will never be a gay marriage at this venue," he said. Like the Kleins, he's been staring down the state's Human Rights Commission after a homosexual couple filed a grievance in 2011 for Walder's refusal to host their "wedding."
Like most states with same-sex "marriage" laws, Illinois's failed to protect business owners with moral objections. "I totally support exemptions for everyone doing business in the wedding industry regarding civil unions or gay marriage," Walder said. "Our current legal predicament could be the predicament of other businesses in Paxton" -- like caterers, photographers, cake bakers, or wedding planners. State Rep. Josh Harms (R), who voted against same-sex "marriage" in Illinois is horrified that businesses will have to participate in same-sex marriage "even if their religion forbids it." He's working on legislation to exempt churches and religiously-affiliated organizations and schools, but thinks a business exemption would be a tough sell.
Tough sell or no, the Thomas More Society thinks it's time to go to bat for religious freedom. Tom Brejcha, who is on standby to file a suit the second an Illinois employer is punished for their marriage views, shakes his head at how backwards America has become. "The idea that free people can be 'compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives' as the 'price of citizenship' is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom," he told reporters. For his part, Walder is ready to stand for truth -- no matter what the outcome. Sure, the complaint caused them to lose a few weddings, but "that's OK," he explained. "Overall, our business is up substantially since the [couple] filed their complaint. We hosted 26 weddings last year."
Intolerance at the Core of Cuomo's Big Apple
"Give me your tired, your poor" -- just not your conservatives! If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had his way, that's what the Statue of Liberty would say to any pro-life, pro-family Republicans hoping to make their homes in his state. In a radio interview that made even die-hard liberals cringe, the Governor might as well have hung a 54,000 square-mile "Keep Out!" sign across the state border to anyone with mainstream views on marriage, life, and the Second Amendment.
"You have a schism within the Republican Party," Cuomo told WCNY Radio. "They're searching to define their soul, that's what's going on. Is the Republican Party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? ...Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and they're the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are."
The backlash was almost instantaneous. Conservatives like Eric Metaxas blasted Cuomo on Twitter, fuming that "Such contempt from a 'public servant' is UTTERLY inexcusable. Gov. Cuomo should apologize & resign." Social media lit up with criticism for the Governor's suggestion that New York, one of the most eclectic places on the planet, engage in viewpoint cleansing. Under those standards, writes Kathryn Jean Lopez, even Cuomo's father wouldn't be welcome.
So who's really extreme? The Americans who believe that killing children in the womb is wrong? The people trying to operate businesses according to their faith? Or the men and women who want to defend their families? No, the extreme ones are the liberals like Governor Cuomo, who are so threatened by the diversity they say they support that they can't even coexist with people who disagree! Are things so desperate in the Democratic Party that the only way to beat conservatives is to banish them?
Everyone from the state Republican Party to Donald Trump piled on, shocked that anyone in Cuomo's position could be so incapable of political civility. New York already chases people away "extraordinarily high taxes," said Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, "so does Cuomo really want to bully millions more away?" It's "not the smartest thing he ever said," Brit Hume tweeted. But in some ways, Governor Cuomo may have done the country a favor. For once, he dropped the charade and finally admitted what's on every liberals' mind. In a wing of ideological fanatics, the most important t-word isn't tolerance; it's totalitarianism.
ProLifeCon: T-minus Two Days and Counting!
This year's ProLifeCon at FRC promises to be another exciting time to unite pro-life activists from across the country to bring awareness to the sanctity of life online. We have an exciting line-up of speakers, who will not only educate you on emerging technologies, but make you aware of the issues impacting the pro-life community in 2013. The program is jam-packed with great speakers, including Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R) from Missouri. She's the sponsor of H.R. 3549, the Protecting Adoption Act, co-sponsor of H.R. 7, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and H.R. 217, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act. Rep. Hartzler is also a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.
She'll be joined by her House colleague Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who is also speaking at ProLifeCon. Rep. Harris was first elected to represent Maryland's First Congressional District in 2011, and serves as a member of the Congressional GOP Doctors Caucus, which works to develop patient-centered, patient-driven health care reforms focused on quality, access, affordability, portability, and consumer choice. Rep. Harris served as an Obstetric Anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Easton, Md. Don't miss these congressmen and a full slate of speakers like Senator Rick Santorum, the Duggar Family, Ryan Bomberger, and many more! Click here to register today and learn how you can spread the pro-life message!
** Get the Blaze! On tomorrow's edition of "Washington Watch," Blaze TV host Glenn Beck joins me to talk about his efforts to combat liberal media bias. Glenn Beck has dubbed tomorrow "Get the Blaze Day of Action" and is asking supporters to contact their cable TV providers and encourage them to carry Glenn Beck's Blaze Network. As Glenn Beck says, "You pay for TV. Your programming should reflect your values." Call your cable TV provider tomorrow and then tune into tomorrow's 5 PM ET broadcast at www.tonyperkins.com. For more info on this day of action, visit http://www.gettheblaze.com/.
*** Leading up to Wednesday's March for Life, FRC produced a series of videos, including this one: "Every 15 Seconds: Pregnancy Resource Centers." Check it out below.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.