On Saturday, the popular crowd-funding site GoFundMe came under fire on Facebook after closing down a fundraising page set up for and authorized by Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based “Sweet Cakes by Melissa.” The business was closed in 2013 after Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, two lesbians who asked the business to make a wedding cake, filed a civil rights complaint against them. At the time, we reported the bakery said it was targeted with threats and terrorism for refusing to make the cake.
On Friday, administrative judge Alan McCullough recommended the Kleins pay $135,000 to the lesbian couple for “emotional, mental, and physical suffering.” Among the 88 symptoms of emotional distress cited by the couple was the claim they felt “mentally raped.” The final amount, MLive added Friday, has not yet been determined.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the Kleins pay the exorbitant judgment. After raising thousands of dollars, however, GoFundMe yanked the page, but said the Kleins will still received the funds raised so far.
“After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions,” the company reportedly said. “The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal. While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live. However, the subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”
“The gofundme account that was set up to help our family was shut down by the administrators of gofundme because they claimed it was raising money for an illegal purpose,” Sweet Cakes by Melissa said on Facebook. “We have told gofundme that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions. We are working to get the account reinstated.”
The announcement sparked a flurry of angry comments on GoFundMe’s Facebook page. Many accused the company of discriminating against Christians.
“Go fund me discriminates against Christians,” one person said, suggesting a boycott. “So now you pick and choose who can raise funds on your site?” another person asked.
“The anti-Christian bigots at gofundme have brazenly discriminated against a Christian family,” added another critic. “I will never help fund another item on your website due to your bigoted treatment of the Kleins. You claim their fund is ‘illegal”‘ but you allow people to ask for money for abortions or to build a pool in their backyard because their dog is bored. Hypocrites. From now on I will recommend your competitors to anyone looking for crowd funding,” added another Facebook critic.
In response, Samaritan’s Purse, an international humanitarian aid group run by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, said those wishing to help the Kleins can contribute to its “Persecuted Christians—USA” fund. Graham said the Kleins “have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone.” Graham, however, wasn’t finished, calling for prayer and characterizing the judge’s recommendation as anti-Christian persecution.
“I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children,” he said. “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.”