The recent events surrounding the court case against a Christian-owned bakery in Oregon are so surreal that they almost defy imagination.
The case itself has been well publicized.
In 2013, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Aaron and Melissa Klein, politely declined to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, as a result of which they were taken to court and charged with discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On Friday, Oregon's Bureau of Labor recommended that the Kleins be fined a total of $135,000 to compensate "for the emotional suffering they [the lesbian couple] experienced."
Because a Christian couple cannot, in good conscience, bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, they are fined $135,000?
Let that sink in: $135,000 for not baking a cake.
What if Orthodox Jewish wedding photographers declined a job because it was on the Sabbath?
What if Muslim caterers declined a job because it required pork?
Would they be taken to court and fined?
What if Christian videographers declined a job because it required them to shoot a porn scene for a movie?
Would they be fined?
Yet these Christian bakers have not just been fined, they have been fined a ridiculous amount.
Really now, what kind of "emotional suffering" did the lesbian couple endure?
The women listed a total of 178 symptoms of their suffering—not 7 or 8 or even 17 or 18, but 178 symptoms—90 from one and 88 from the other.
As reported by Kelsey Harkness, "Examples of symptoms include 'acute loss of confidence,' 'doubt,' 'excessive sleep,' 'felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,' 'high blood pressure,' 'impaired digestion,' 'loss of appetite,' 'migraine headaches,' 'pale and sick at home after work,' 'resumption of smoking habit,' 'shock,' 'stunned,' 'surprise,' 'uncertainty,' 'weight gain' and 'worry.'"
All this—and much, much more—simply because a Christian bakery said, "It's contrary to our religious beliefs to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony."
Is it possible that these women were not exaggerating?
Yes it is.
But that doesn't mean that the Kleins should be fined $135,000. Instead, it means we should question the overall emotional stability of these two lesbians since it is almost impossible to believe that they really suffered all this simply because a Christian company said they could not participate in a lesbian "wedding."
Since coming to faith in Jesus as a Jewish teenager in 1971, I have often experienced rejection from the Jewish community. For example, a Jewish bookstore wouldn't sell books to my school, a Jewish educational service changed their phone numbers to shut me out once I subscribed to their phone-based teaching sessions, a religious Jewish man spat on my face while we talked on the train one day, also hurling my Hebrew Bible in anger, while others have simply turned their backs on me when I tried to address them.
We all get rejected and we all have people who don't like us and we sure don't come up with lists of 178 examples of our trauma when someone expresses their polite disagreement with something important to us.
Let's also remember that, before the courts ever ruled on the Kleins' case, the vicious, gay activist attack against them forced them to close their business, which means that the fine now levied against them would have to come out of whatever personal funds they have.
As Aaron Klein said, "The state is now saying that we can award damages above and beyond what you have already suffered ... and they have no qualms about doing this. It is really showing the state is taking a stance on absolutely obliterating somebody that takes a different stance than the state has."
What kind of totalitarianism is this? And how could this lesbian couple possibly think they were entitled to $135,000 in compensation, blaming this litany of 188 symptoms of emotional suffering on the Kleins?
This is beyond ludicrous.
But it gets worse and even more ludicrous.
On Friday, shortly after the fine was announced, an account for the Kleins was set up on GoFundMe, and in about 8 hours, more than $109,000 was raised for them. And then suddenly the page was taken down.
According to Jay Richards, "A competitor of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Lisa Watson of Cupcake Jones, contacted GoFundMe to alert the crowd-funding company that the Kleins had violated the terms of service," as a result of which they disabled the campaign.
This is what Watson wrote to GoFundMe: "This business has been found GUILTY OF DISCRIMINATION and is being allowed to fundraise to pay their penalty. The gofundme terms of service address hate speech, bigotry, criminal activity and sexism among other things in their campaign ... The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting."
What a ridiculous complaint, especially in its accusation that it was "anonymous cowards" who came forward to help the Kleins, deeming their actions "disgusting."
So today, you can't even stand with other Christians without being lambasted in the ugliest terms.
This is utterly appalling.
But it is even more appalling that GoFundMe agreed with her complaint and shut down the campaign, claiming that because Sweet Cakes had been found guilty by the court, raising funds for them would violate the GoFundMe terms of services. (Others have already pointed out that GoFundMe is being completely inconsistent in their actions here.)
Thankfully, Franklin Graham stepped forward and continued the campaign for the Kleins on his Samaritan's Purse website.
But this whole episode exposes the moral bankruptcy of the contemporary attack on Bible-believing Christians, first, with the state requiring the Kleins to violate their religious beliefs, second, by blaming them for a ridiculous list of traumas, third, by fining them such an exorbitant amount of money, and fourth, by shutting down the caring campaign meant to help them.
Church of America, wake up.
These are truly urgent times.
Michael Brown is the author of 25 books, including Can You Be Gay and Christian? and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show "The Line of Fire." He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience.
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