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Keisha Russell is counsel to First Liberty Institute, a non-profit law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom for all.
Did Oregon officials violate their duty to remain neutral on matters of religion when they ordered Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $135,000 for declining to create a custom same-sex wedding cake, a move that crushed the small, family-owned business?
Question - Oregon - Court - Appeals - Argument
That’s the question that the Oregon Court of Appeals will answer after having heard oral argument last week in the case of Melissa Klein v. Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Oregon courts are taking up the case once again, after being ordered to do so by the U.S. Supreme Court.
June - Supreme - Court - Oregon - Decision
In June 2019, the Supreme Court threw out the original Oregon decision that upheld the crushing fine with orders to revisit the case in light of the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
That decision held that government officials should not be in the business of deciding whose faith is or is not acceptable. Instead, they must remain neutral on matters of religion.
Court - Week - Kleins - Attorneys - Oregon
In court last week, the Kleins’ attorneys argued that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, led by then-Commissioner Brad Avakian, acted with unconstitutional hostility toward religion in its handling of the case. The Kleins are represented by attorneys from Boyden Gray & Associates and from First Liberty Institute.
They argued that the Oregon bureau demonstrated anti-religious hostility in several ways, including awarding “emotional damages” based upon the quotation of a Bible verse, awarding an amount of damages that exceeds cases involving physical violence or sexual harassment, and making public statements demonstrating that the commissioner prejudged the case before hearing the evidence.
Bureau - Labor - Industries - Damage - Award
The Bureau of Labor and Industries based its exceptionally large damage award on Aaron Klein’s quotation of the Bible. When a woman inquired about ordering a...
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