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Oregon Throws Out the First Amendment with Gag Order for Christian Bakers

In 2013, Rachel Bowman-Cryer visited Sweetcakes by Melissa, a bakery in Portland, Oregon, to order a wedding cake for Bowman-Cryer’s upcoming wedding to her partner, Laurel.


What has happened since that day almost perfectly captures the cultural moment we’re living in.


The bakery’s owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, told Bowman-Cryer that their religious beliefs wouldn’t allow them to fulfill her request.


As you’ve probably guessed, the matter didn’t end there. Seven months after the visit, Bowman-Cryer and her partner filed a complaint with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, alleging discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation—even though same-sex marriage didn’t become legal in Oregon until 2014.


Now, if this sounds a lot like the case of the New Mexico photographer, Elaine Huguenin, to you, you’re only partly right. That’s because what happened in Oregon was even more punitive.


The administrative law judge appointed by Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner, not only sided with Bowman-Cryer and her partner, he also awarded them $135,000 in damages.


As reported in the Daily Signal, the damages were for the emotional trauma occasioned by the refusal to bake a cake for the couple. The list of maladies attributed to the Kleins’ refusal reads like the end of a pharmaceutical ad on TV: “excessive sleep,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” and “weight gain.”


In addition, both women alleged that the denial of service made them feel unloved by God and that they were “not created with a soul and unworthy of holy love and life.”


As outrageous as the damages award was, the worst was yet to come. Avakian modified that administrative law judge’s “proposed order” to include a provision ordering the Kleins not to speak “publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.”


The Kleins’ lawyer, Anna Harmon, told the Daily Signal that “Avakian has been outspoken throughout this case about his intent to ‘rehabilitate’ those whose beliefs do not conform to the state’s ideas.” She called his “cease and desist” order a “brazen attack on every American’s right to freely speak” and said that it imposed “government orthodoxy on those who do not agree with government sanctioned ideas.”


Harmon is, of course, right. “How is this legal?” you might ask. It probably isn’t, but we live in a culture where traditional beliefs about marriage are increasingly seen as aberrations to be eradicated, and the people seeking to do the eradicating aren’t about to let the First Amendment stand in their way.


That’s why the work of groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund is so vital and worthy of our support.


Something tells me groups like these are going to be very busy, by the way. In its recent same-sex marriage decision, the Supreme Court equated “liberty” with “dignity” and defined “dignity” as essentially the right to public affirmation of your choices.


That puts Christians in the crosshairs. In an age where feelings are what matters, there is potentially no limit to how people can feel “not affirmed.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go the extra mile to avoid needless offense. But as John Stonestreet recently said on BreakPoint, for some people, it really doesn’t matter how winsome we are. Our failure to celebrate their choices is itself considered offensive.


So that’s the cultural moment we’re living in. In an Age of Feelings, the insufficiently celebratory are increasingly second-class citizens. And that really takes the cake.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: July 9, 2015

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