After getting hit with a financially-crushing $135,000 fine last week for their decision to not bake a cake for a lesbian wedding, the Christian owners of the Oregon "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" bakery say they have until Monday to pay up, or else the state of Oregon could place a lien on their home.
The punishing fine was levied by Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industry against the couple for unlawful discrimination against a same-sex couple.
They must pay in full by Monday with "personal property" rather than only business assets and the fine "has the potential to financially ruin" the family of five, according to business owner Aaron Klein. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian "knew that full well going into this," said Klein.
Baking a cake for a lesbian wedding violates their Christian beliefs, the Kleins say, and they plan to appeal. However the fine hangs over their heads in the mean time.
"This is intimidation and bullying — that's exactly what it is," Klein told Fox News in an interview." They are trying to strong-arm me into handing over $135,000 to the two girls and if I win on appeal — they will never pay me back."
Avakian's order demands that the Kleins must "cease and desist" from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs, the Daily Signal reported.
From the order:
"The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation."
(Courtesy of Sweet Cakes}
"This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights," the Kleins wrote on their Facebook page. "According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech."
A letter sent to the Kleins' attorney says 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 spokesman for the Oregon Bureau of Labor confirmed to Fox News. He said the Christian family could either pay in full or make payment arrangements.
"Of course, they can also ask for a stay of enforcement while they pursue their appeal," he said.
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The problem is that the person who determines whether or not to stay the order is Avakian, the same man who levied the fine and enacted the gag order.
"Brad Avakian has been outspoken throughout this case about his intent to 'rehabilitate' those whose beliefs do not conform to the state's ideas," said Anna Harmon, the family's attorney.
"The judge, jury and executioner are all in one place," she said. "He is intent on using his office to root out thought and speech with which he personally disagrees."
The Kleins have said they filed a stay.
"I will fight them with every last breath I have," said Aaron Klein, adding that Avakian and "his cohorts have overstepped their constitutional rights in requiring me to cease and desist."
Echoing her husband's words earlier this week, Melissa Klein told Fox that she would not submit to Avakian's intimidation.
"He definitely messed with the wrong Christians," she said. "We are so going to fight this, oh my gosh. It's making us stronger and emboldening us to stand up to this. Aaron and I are fighting for every American out there — for their freedom. We are not backing down at all."