If you thought it was expensive to buy a wedding cake, try not baking one! Aaron and Melissa Klein found out just how expensive today, when -- after two long years -- an Oregon judge finally told the young parents of five exactly how much living by their beliefs would cost them: $135,000. Their dream of owning 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.
Sued, harassed, vandalized, and threatened to the point that the couple had to close their doors, the Kleins still didn't budge. Found guilty by an administrative court earlier this year, the Kleins spent four sleepless weeks wondering what the government -- the same one that guarantees them the freedom of religion -- would charge them. Now that they've been ordered to pay up to $135,000 in fines, Aaron and Melissa have made it clear that they are willing to pay a far steeper price to stand up for Christ.
"To be told they're going to force me to convey a message other than what I want to convey -- it flies in the face of the Constitution," Aaron explained. "It's a violation of my conscience. It's a violation of my religious freedom. It's horrible to see your own government doing this to you."
Anna Harmon, one of the Kleins' attorneys, said the sentencing was tough to swallow. "Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means... The [judge] ruled wrongly that the Kleins' right not to design and create a work of art celebrating an event which violates the tenets of their religion is not protected by the Oregon or Federal Constitutions. This is a dangerous result for religious liberty and rights of conscience in Oregon..."
Unfortunately, the Kleins are just one of the families hanging in the balance of the Supreme Court's scales. When the justices go to work next Tuesday, they'll be deciding a lot more issues than the definition of marriage. For the sake of the First Amendment, let's hope that our right not to be forced to violate our faith is one of them.
In the meantime, if you'd like to help the Kleins raise the money they need to exercise their religious liberty, please visit this webpage for more information. Then, click over to TonyPerkins.com later tonight to hear our interview with this courageous couple!
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said his Department is trying to "lead boldly on sexual assault." Well, it's leading all right -- but in all the wrong categories. Attacks are through the roof, despite millions of dollars thrown at prevention. Things are so desperate, the Air Force admits, that it's bringing in relationship experts for "May I kiss you?" training.
In a talk to ROTC cadets Wednesday, Secretary Carter -- who inherited this mess after almost seven years of Obama's social engineering -- admitted that the military has a long way to go in cleaning up its act. Last year, he explained, thousands more men (10,400) were sexually assaulted than women (8,500) -- proving once again how misguided the crusade for open homosexuality was. "...[A]ltogether, that's 18,900 too many," Carter said. "No man or woman who serves in the United States military should ever be sexually assaulted."
A little over four years ago, Congress ignored the warnings of several leaders and charged ahead with its repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" against the military's advice. Under pressure from the White House, the Pentagon downplayed the effects of open homosexuality when it was implemented in 2011 -- something it's having a tough time doing now, with the rate of male-on-male abuse. And even Carter believes that's a low estimate -- in part because men are so reluctant to report abuse, especially from other men.
Defense officials are racing to reassure people that they're doing everything they can to get to the bottom of these issues -- only to inject more policies that accelerate both. They put political correctness ahead of national security and then seem surprised when both the nation and the people that protect us are at risk. Until that changes, every service member will be a victim of this sexually-charged environment.
If there's one thing Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn't doing a good job of, it's fitting into the media's stereotype. The conservative presidential candidate stunned the New York Times by refusing to turn down a chance to speak at a homosexual couple's home -- while maintaining his principles in the process. So desperate to add to their narrative of GOP intolerance, the newspaper seemed surprised that the Texas Republican could have a civil conversation on other matters.
"A conservative Republican who is willing to meet with individuals who do not agree on marriage... may not reflect the caricature of conservatives promoted by the left, but it's hardly newsworthy. I'm happy to go anywhere to anyone to champion conservative values. We're not always going to agree on everything, and I'm not going to change my fundamental values." The purpose of the meeting, Cruz pointed out, "and the primary topics of conversation were national security, foreign policy, and America's commitment to standing with Israel. On the subject of marriage, when asked, I stated directly and unambiguously what everyone in the room already knew, that I oppose gay marriage and I support traditional marriage."
And fortunately for us, Senator Cruz doesn't just support marriage -- he fights for it. Earlier this week, he introduced a bill that would "shield states who define marriage as the union of a man and woman from legal action." The overwhelming majority of Americans (61 percent) have already said that the issue should be decided by voters -- not the courts. And while there are pros and cons to Cruz's idea, his action proves a powerful point: that the debate on marriage won't end when the Supreme Court's arguments do. Plenty of strong and courageous leaders will continue to battle for the institution that's sustained this nation -- and every other -- for years and decades to come.
** For more on the Supreme Court's big day on marriage, tune in this Sunday morning to CBS's "Face the Nation." Check your local listings for air times.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.