Political abuses of power by BOLI in Gresham bakery case

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

On July 2 Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian upheld an earlier finding that said the owners of the Sweetcakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham had to pay $135,000 in damages to a lesbian couple for refusing to make them a wedding cake. The damages were for “emotional and mental suffering resulting from the cake denial.”

The case started in January 2013, before a federal judge had overturned Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

I wrote a summary of the case back in 2013 as part of a column: “In January the bakery said they wouldn’t bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple’s same-sex marriage, because it violated their religious beliefs. The bakery had previously sold a wedding cake to the same couple when the wedding cake wasn’t for a same-sex marriage; and the bakery does sell their cakes to gays and lesbians, just not for same-sex marriages. In addition to the bakery owner’s religious beliefs, same-sex marriage is also prohibited by the Oregon Constitution.”

Supposed proponents of tolerance then “harassed [the bakery’s] vendors to the point that vendors would no longer refer customers,” and the resulting loss of business caused the bakery to close its storefront. Additionally, “the bakery also had to contend with hateful and falsified online reviews, a break-in to their bakery truck, hate mail, and threatening, harassing phone calls and e-mails – including ones that say the husband-owner should be shot and another that he should be raped.”

The reason the bakery owners felt providing a wedding cake violated their religious beliefs is because it was much more than just baking a cake. Anna Harmon, an attorney for the bakery owners, explained that if someone just wanted a cake they’d go to Costco. When clients came to Sweetcakes by Melissa, they would describe what they wanted and as they did Melissa would begin sketching the cake. Each cake was a unique piece of art just for that client. It deeply involved Melissa in the client’s wedding.

But those religious beliefs were trampled on by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) – for refusing to do something that they felt violated their religious beliefs and for refusing to take part in something that also happened to be prohibited by the Oregon Constitution! No matter, Avakian had a political agenda to pursue.

Back to the finding that called for the bakery owners to pay $135,000 in damages. It was made by an administrative law judge who works for BOLI, and who according to the finding was “designated as Administrative Law Judge by Avakian.” The “judge” is not an actual judge. In fact according to The Oregonian he’s not even a lawyer, but he does have two years of law school. So the finding was made by a government worker in the executive branch and then it was appealed to that person’s boss, also in the executive branch. Not surprisingly, the boss upheld the finding.

That would seem to be a violation of Article III, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution “the powers of the Government shall be divided into three separate departments, the Legislative, the Executive, including the administrative, and the Judicial; and no person charged with official duties under one of these departments, shall exercise any of the functions of another.”

Multiple violations of the Oregon Constitution aren’t Avakian’s only failings in this case. There’s also the matter of his going back on his word.

Back in 2013 Avakian said “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.” But then he goes on to fine the bakery $135,000, which The Oregonian Editorial Board says is a “virtual death sentence for a business as small as theirs.”

This punishment of the Gresham bakery is purely an abuse of a government agency to enforce a political agenda. It is completely improper and it’s designed as a show of force to the culture. Accept a redefinition of marriage or pay the price. Dissent will not be tolerated. Oh, and by the way, we’re also redefining religious liberty.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com