What part of "cease and desist" don't conservatives understand? Apparently, a lot -- or so the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry would like us to believe. After four days of negative PR, officials are in full-blown damage control over Commissioner Brad Avakian's $135,000 ruling against Aaron and Melissa Klein, which included a decree that the Christian bakers no longer speak publicly about the decision.
When news of the order went viral, Oregon officials tried to refute the story by recruiting their friends on the Left to explain it away. Slate obliged, posting a lengthy column on how the gag order wasn't, in fact, a gag order. With verbal gymnastics that could have medaled in the London Games, the site took the Daily Signal to task for "misreading" the commissioner's threat. That was a difficult assignment for Slate, given that on more than one occasion, Avakian insists that the Kleins must "cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published... any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations... will be refused..."
In the commissioner's defense, Stern pointed to an email from the far-Left Media Matters as proof that the order had been "absurdly exaggerated." Stern lifts a few sentences to make his point -- ignoring several pages of Avakian's case for the Kleins' forced silence in the process.
Of course, attorneys from Fox News to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had already studied the text and concurred: anything Aaron and Melissa said about their case could be declared an act of "discrimination." And while both sides agree that the commissioner's language was intentionally vague, its potential to do damage is not. As Daily Signal pointed out, "[Mark] Stern either didn't read in depth the interviews of the Kleins that Avakian relied on -- or didn't care how flimsy Avakian's case was..."
With all due respect to Slate and Media Matters, who do liberals think people are going to believe? The government officials caught colluding against the Kleins who have Twitter accounts full of gay activism -- or a panel of legitimate legal experts? Unfortunately, this is how bullies operate -- they push until they're challenged. Well, Avakian has been challenged, and now he's forced to "clarify" statements that were clearly meant to intimidate. But regardless of what the commissioner did or didn't mean, these parents of five have no intentions of backing down. "This is not a settled issue," Aaron told me on last night's "Washington Watch" radio show. "We're going to continue to speak for God's truth."
And they'll have plenty of company doing so. In Colorado, Masterpiece Cakes's Jack Phillips -- part of the growing club of persecuted, natural marriage-believing Christians -- is taking his turn in court. Jack, who got a head start on the Kleins by turning down a same-sex wedding job in 2012, has watched his case wind through the state's Civil Rights Commission (where he was charged with "discrimination") to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Like the Kleins, Phillips is represented by ADF, who this morning argued that "The right to be free from compelled speech applies to everyone, not just those who hold the 'right' views in the eyes of society."
Interestingly enough, the same state that found Jack guilty just vindicated a Denver baker who objected to putting a Bible verse on a cake. If Marjorie Silva could turn down an order based on "her standards of offensiveness," why not Jack? All Christians are asking for is the same accommodation for their views that liberals already enjoy. Instead, the Left seems intent on punishing what it claimed to champion: diversity. And in the process, they're doing an incredibly effective job answering the question -- how will same-sex "marriage" affect you?
If the First Amendment can't do its job, county clerks will resign from theirs. In Tennessee, an entire office of clerks is calling it quits just a week and a half after the Supreme Court's marriage ruling. Concerned that the government won't acknowledge their right to decline, the group has decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and find work elsewhere.
Effective July 14, the Decatur County Clerks Office will be virtually empty, as local officials look for replacements willing to do the Court's bidding. Despite the jam this puts him in, County Commissioner David Boroughs had nothing but praise for the clerks. "I'm proud of them that their faith is so strong and well-rounded that they feel they can do that," he told local reporters. Although none of the clerks have jobs lined up, Gwen Pope isn't worried. "I honestly believe God will take care of it." Like their colleagues in Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, their convictions come before their careers. In America's pulpits, thankfully, the two are still very much entwined. Churches across the country are showing a surprising amount of resolve on the marriage issue, an encouraging sign after so many swore off political engagement. Shortly after the ruling, California's Pastor Jim Garlow made headlines for standing before his congregation with a copy of the Court's marriage ruling in one hand and his Bible in the other. "It's time to decide," he said, throwing the ruling to the ground. "This is who I stand with."
Fellow Watchmen Pastor Jack Hibbs, who has never shied away from the marriage debate, blasted the justices for ripping pages from the Bible on God' definition of marriage. "They raised the flag, and they said, Christians, stay out of it; this is a political issue. And Christians in America, led by weak, pathetic hirelings in the pulpits, backed down and went into their little cloisters and hid out."
Now, those same churches are coming out of hiding -- hopefully, before it's too late. Even younger pastors, who represent a generation of ministers who have quietly bowed out of the culture wars, are joining the pushback. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again here today just to make sure that we're clear," Jonathan Falwell told his congregation, "at Thomas Road Baptist Church, there will never be a same-sex marriage or any other form of marriage outside of between a man and a woman conducted at this church as long as I'm your pastor."
The crowd erupted -- as it has everywhere I've been since the ruling. In fact, it's been interesting to hear pastors speak strongly against the redefinition of marriage and watch their congregations respond with standing ovations. That's bad news for the Left, who wrongly assumed the country would just fall in line with their moral treachery. Could this be the turning point the church has been waiting for? Let's hope so.
Standing on principle may not be popular with liberals, but it's certainly welcome here! Governor Sam Brownback (R) has taken plenty of heat for making social issues a priority in Kansas -- but he'll find plenty of fans at VVS. The longtime friend of FRC spoke at the very first Values Voter Summit and has made plans to celebrate its 10th by returning this September. Governor Brownback will join a line-up that includes: Republican presidential candidates Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Dr. Ben Carson; Dr. Bill Bennett; Lt. Col. Oliver North; Aaron and Melissa Klein; the Benham Brothers; Brigitte Gabriel; Fox News's Todd Starnes; and others. Don't miss this jam-packed weekend, September 25-27 at the Omni Shoreham in downtown D.C. For more information or to register, visit the Values Voter Summit website!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.