A crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $109,000 for the Christian-owned bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon was removed Saturday after complaints from gay rights advocates.
The website GoFundMe said in a statement that the page was yanked because the campaign violated the policy against raising money “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.”
“The campaign entitled ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ involves formal charges. As such, our team has determined that it was in violation of GoFundMe’s Terms & Conditions,” GoFundMe said in an email statement.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries proposed a damages award Friday of $135,000 against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the bakery, after they were found in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law in February.
The family will receive the money that was raised before the site was yanked, according to GoFundMe. In addition, Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief group headed by the Rev. Franklin Graham, launched a fundraising drive Friday to help the Kleins pay the damages award.
“Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple,” Mr. Graham said in a statement on the website.
The Kleins declined to provide a wedding cake in 2013 for a same-sex marriage ceremony. The award, which is not final, would provide $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for “emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”
The crowdfunding campaign launched shortly after the award was announced Friday afternoon by Mark Kost. The site collected more than $109,000 in less than eight hours.
But critics of the couple, led by Oregon baker Lisa Watson, said on Facebook that they urged GoFundMe to remove the crowdfunding page.
“Watson’s own post on Facebook stated, ‘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,'” the website GoLocalPDX reported in a Saturday post.
In a Saturday post on her Facebook page, Ms. Watson said, “I can’t believe we just did that,” while Brent J. Blackwell commented, “I complained three times and got my family in on it too.”
The GoFundMe crowdfunding site was used earlier this month to raise more than $842,000 for Memories Pizza owners Crystal and Kevin O’Connor, who said they would not cater a hypothetical same-sex wedding, but the money raised was to support their business and family, not to pay a court award.
“In the case of ‘Memories Pizza,’ no formal charges were involved, thus the campaign was not removed,” said the GoFundMe statement.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa has since closed its doors, although the Kleins are still providing baked goods from their home. The Kleins, who have five children, have said they are struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s very discouraging. This is not money coming from a business, this is not money coming from an insurance fund, this is money coming straight from our bank account,” Mr. Klein told the Family Research Council’s Craig James in a radio interview Friday.
The Daily Signal reported that the $135,000 damages awarded included payments for a host of physical, emotional and mental ailments listed by the lesbian couple, including “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.”