More than $210,000 has been raised in support of the Oregon Christian bakers who are being forced by the state to pay $135,000 in "emotional damages" to a lesbian couple for declining to bake them a wedding cake in 2013, an act that would have violated their deeply-held religious convictions.
Although an online fundraiser established on GoFundMe.com to support Melissa and Aaron Klein, the owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, raised over $100,009 in nine hours in April, the campaign was taken off the website because the Kleins had been "formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law."
After removing the Kleins' fundraiser, GoFundMe later revised its user policy to state that the site can't be used to raise money in "defense of formal charges or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts." The website additionally shut down the fundraiser for Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who's also facing heavy fines for not working a gay wedding.
After their campaign was removed by GoFundMe, evangelist Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse stepped in to provide a platform to raise funds for the married couple, through the organization's donation page designated for persecuted Christians in the U.S.
Another online campaign in support of the Kleins was set up on ContinueToGive.com, which is a "faith based online tithing and giving platform founded on biblical principles" devoted to helping churches, missionaries, nonprofits, individuals and adopting parents.
Although the Kleins fundraiser began with an initial goal of raising $150,000, the website indicates that the goal has been exceeded by 204 percent, which would mean over $306,000 was donated to the campaign.
But according to the website, it charges 3.9 percent and 60 cents per donation for personal fundraisers. The Daily Signal estimates that the Kleins have raised at least $210,000.
"Let's help the Kleins through this hard time as they fight for religious freedom; which they are not just fighting for themselves but for all of us as our freedoms are threatened," the fundraiser states. "They have been struggling financially ever since they were forced to close the doors of their bakery in 2013 as their income was basically cut in half. If they are forced to pay the damages to the lesbian couple they will be in much worse shape than they are now."
"They are pioneers in standing strong for the Lord and have been very courageous and steadfast throughout this whole ordeal," the fundraiser continues.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, the Kleins said that their income has dramatically decreased since they closed their bakery. Now that they are being forced to pay for emotional damages, their financial situation is getting tighter.
Although they have raised money online, Aaron said he picked up a job as a garbage collector after the closing of the bakery to help make ends meet.
As Oregon's Commission of Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian, upheld last week that the Kleins must pay $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer for mental damages caused by the refusal of service in 2013, the couple has been notified that they must pay by next Monday or risk having a government lien placed on their home.
A letter from BOLI was sent to the Kleins informing them of their payment options.
"The letter informs them that if we do not hear from them, we may turn the matter over to the Department of Revenue, which can place a lien on real property," a BOLI spokesman told Fox News' Todd Starnes. "Of course, they can also ask for a stay of enforcement while they pursue their appeal."
Anna Harmon, the Kleins' attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom, said the letter is just another sign that the state is sticking to its guns.
"This letter, while its the normal procedure, continues to show the state is not backing down," Harmon told Starnes. "They don't think they did any wrong here."
Although it is likely that the Kleins will ask for a stay of the judgment as the couple is expected to appeal Avakian's ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals , Avakian will be the one who rules on whether the Kleins should be granted a stay.
"The judge, jury and executioner are all in one place," Harmon said. "He is intent on using his office to root out thought and speech with which he personally disagrees."