The internet has come together to raise a record $352,500 on crowdfunding site Continue to Give, to help anti-LGBT Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein pay a $135,000 legal fine after they refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, citing their religious beliefs.
Last week, The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ordered Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for “emotional damages” to Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer after declining to prepare a cake for their June 2013 commitment ceremony. Aaron Klein claimed the ruling was an example of the “persecution of Christians” in the U.S.
Continue to Give, which also handles fundraising for nonprofit organizations, says the Sweet Cakes fundraiser has raised more than any previous campaign on behalf of individuals in the 3-year-old website’s history.
Jesse Wellhoefer, founder of Continue to Give, says his company has received “lots and lots” of complaints about the crowdfunding campaign for Sweet Cakes, but that he has refused to remove it.
“Lots of people have been asking us to take it off,” Mr. Wellhoefer said. “Our response has been, ‘Thank you for your concern, have a great day and God bless you.’”
The campaign has received 7,651 donations since launching May 5. Supporters have left thousands of messages such as, “Keep on fighting,” “God bless you,” and “Don’t back down!! We are standing with you.”
Washington Times adds:
GoFundMe, the nation’s largest crowdfunder, removed a campaign for Sweet Cakes by Melissa in April after receiving complaints from gay-marriage supporters. The bakery’s owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, are locked in a legal battle with the state for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, citing their religious beliefs.
GoFundMe changed its policy on disallowed campaigns after pulling the Sweet Cakes fundraiser. At first GoFundMe explained the removal by citing its policy against “formal charges in defense of heinous crimes,” prompting critics to point out that the Kleins had not been charged with a crime.
A few days later, GoFundMe changed the policy to include a ban on “claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts,” making it easier to remove campaigns for Christian-owned business owners fighting discrimination charges after declining to provide services for gay weddings.
The Kleins were permitted to keep the $109,000 already raised on GoFundMe before the campaign was removed.
That means the Kleins have so far raised a total of $461,500 after using the Bible to refuse a same-sex couple a wedding cake. Meanwhile, hundreds of crowdfunders seeking small donations to help bury their loved ones or help pay for a 3-year-old’s battle with cancer will go without funding.