Franklin Graham Slams 'Outrageous' Attack on 'Freedom of Speech' Following Ruling Fining Oregon Christian Bakers $135K for Refusing to Make Gay Wedding Cake
The Rev. Franklin Graham has spoken out against what he calls an "outright attack" on freedom of speech after Oregon's Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner Brad Avakin upheld an earlier ruling that forces Christian bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $135,000 for refusing to participate in a lesbian wedding.
"Give me a break. In my opinion, this couple should pay the Kleins $135,000 for all they've been through," Graham wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
"Even more outrageous is that Avakian has also now ordered the Kleins to 'cease and desist' from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs. This is an outright attack on their #freedomofspeech," he added.
"Pray for them as they appeal the ruling and for other Christians experiencing discrimination because of their faith right here in 'the land of the free.'"
Avakin issued his final order on Friday, finding the Kleins, owners of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon, guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake the gay marriage cake in 2013. The couple will now have to pay complainant Rachel Bowman-Cryer $75,000 for damages and $60,000 to her partner Laurel Bowman-Cryer.
Oregon's Bureau of Labor & Industries Commissioner argued in his written order that there is no distinction between denying service due to the complainants' sexual orientation and due to refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony.
"Further, to allow respondents, a for-profit business, to deny any services to people because of their protected class, would be tantamount to allowing legal separation of people based on their sexual orientation from at least some portion of the public marketplace," he added.
The Kleins have also been told to cease and desist from speaking publicly about how they plan to continue to stand for their beliefs and refuse to participate in same-sex weddings while operating their business from home.
"According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech. We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced," the Kleins posted on the Sweet Cakes By Melissa Facebook page.
"We stand for God's truth, God's Word and freedom for ALL Americans," the post continued. "We are here to obey God, not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!"
Attorney Anna Harmon, who's representing the Kleins, told The Daily Signal that she is shocked by the provision.
"Brad Avakian has been outspoken throughout this case about his intent to 'rehabilitate' those whose beliefs do not conform to the state's ideas," Harmon said.
"Now he has ruled that the Kleins' simple statement of personal resolve to be true to their faith is unlawful. This is a brazen attack on every American's right to freely speak and imposes government orthodoxy on those who do not agree with government sanctioned ideas."