Baptist concerns greet order against bakers

PORTLAND, Oregon (BP) — A penalty of $135,000 and a gag order against Oregon bakers who declined to provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony have evoked protests and concerns from Southern Baptist leaders.

Brad Avakian, commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, issued an order July 2 against Aaron and Melissa Klein. His order affirmed a proposed payment for damages to a lesbian couple and required the Kleins to refrain from providing notice they will not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In his order, Avakian rejected the Kleins’ contention their refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex “marriage” is not based on discrimination against homosexuals. There is “no distinction between the two,” he wrote.

The couple’s lawyer, Anna Harmon, said in a written statement Avakian’s order “has made this case about an overpowered elected official using his position to root out thought and speech with which he personally disagrees,” The Portland Oregonian reported.

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd called Avakian’s actions “not only unprecedented, but alarming.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Let’s be clear — This family is being threatened with financial ruin not because they were impeding anyone else’s freedom, but simply because they could not in good conscience participate in something they believe would be morally wrong for them to do. Such bullying is neither right nor American.”

The Kleins said in a July 2 post on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page that the gag order “effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights. 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’ next step will be Oregon’s Court of Appeals.

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State Baptist newspaper serving Baptists in Alabama, providing information, inspiration and interpretation as well as challenging readers to serve and find opportunities for ministry that further the kingdom of God.
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