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

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Posted by at 09:30 | Posted in 1st Amendment, Government Overreach, Government Regulation, Oregon Government, State Labor Commissioner | 51 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • guest

    Like Kitzhaber, Avakian should step down and take his licks liked a sacked down, both truly is.

  • Dave Lister

    When one Party runs the State, the Party becomes the State. That is also known as Fascism. Avakian is a good Fascist.

  • Bob Clark

    There is also a great guest editorial in the Oregonian today on the dubious nature of BOLI’s position on this particular case, as a boutique bakery like in this case is an artistic expression on the part of the bakers. In practicality the government should not act in this particular case because to do so gets the government into the slippery slope of determining whether the artist is giving a sincere effort to producing his artistic renderings.

    • Eric Blair

      The question is, is the baking a cake part of their religious practice? Would they refuse to bake cakes for other groups based upon their religious beliefs?

      • kimisland

        You cannot do this.. for this is strictly about 1 Corinthians 6: 9 – 11, and our own State’s constitution. Don’t bring more into this than is there! This is about sexual relations that are against God’s teachings of pure laws… not mankind’s. Prophecy fulfills itself each day. We long for Armageddon.

        • Eric Blair

          And those sexual relations are none of your business.. and all sins are equally egregious in God’s eyes. Why does this one get all the attention and not the others?

          You long for Armageddon. I don’t.

          • Saddam Goformoreh

            You’re poise like a pillar of rawk salt, Eric.

          • SG to EB

            poised, poison, whatever…

          • NAFTA Refugee

            The others probably aren’t getting the attention because they aren’t having new law being “interpreted” by the supreme court. Of course, I don’t think the founders could ever have predicted this issue coming up. It depends on what your definition of is is.

          • Dick Winningstad

            It became the Sweet Cakes business and a question of conscience when it was announced by the customers it would be a Lesbian wedding. Asking people to go against their beliefs is not what this country was founded on.

      • NAFTA Refugee

        I suppose the happy human sacrifice cake is back on the menu?
        Happy Jihad cake?
        NAMBLA cake?
        Witchcraft cake?
        Hail Satan cake? Be elzibub birthday?

        Help me out guys. and gals.

      • MrBill

        I would say that baking a cake is part of their religious practice since one’s religious beliefs should impact all areas of life including one’s vocation. You shouldn’t live by one set of rules on Sunday and another the rest of the week.

        Aside from violating the baker’s religious freedom, this case sets another dangerous precedent. When you look at the list of damages claimed by the lesbian couple, they’re mostly comprised of very subjective claims that boil down to one thing. Their feelings were hurt. It would appear from this case that the more offended you can be, the greater damages you can claim. In short we’re creating incentives for people to be easily offended, not a good thing for an already too litigious society.

        • Eric Blair

          So, based upon religion alone, people can refuse service to anyone they religiously disagree with? As a waiter I wouldn’t have to serve kosher food to a jewish couple? Or does this theory pertain only to self-employed people?

          I think there is a difference between religious beliefs impacting all areas of your life, and overt religious practices such as prayer, fasting, etc… After all, as far as I can tell, Sweet Cakes decided to only focus on one “sin”, and weren’t concerned with others. Did they make cakes for other weddings of people getting married in different religions?

          I’m curious what the limits are, if any. As a follower of the FSM, I’m looking forward to picking and choosing who I help.

          • .

            EB, UR free to go pique your knows, shilgrimn!

          • MrBill

            The baker’s themselves would have to decide that, but I don’t think that would be a problem. The customer and baker may disagree about a lot of particulars, but I suspect both would be in general agreement over what constitutes a marriage and what it’s value is to society. So unless the baker’s were extremely particular, I don’t think that would be a problem.

          • Eric Blair

            Yet.. a marriage conducted under a false belief or God would be a sin, wouldn’t it? There’s the problem Bill… they are picking and choosing which sins suddenly bother them. They’re not following religious practices, they’re following political practices. And, they are discriminating against a protected class.

          • MrBill

            Not really. A virtue’s a virtue whether it’s done by a Christian (like myself) or a Hindu or even a Satanist. The institute of marriage is still sacred regardless of who enters it.

          • Eric Blair

            So God would not be unhappy if I entered a marriage under the name of Satan? And that wouldn’t be a sin? It would still be a ‘virtue’? I find that hard to believe.

          • NAFTA Refugee

            Would Satan be your first, middle or last name?

          • Eric Blair

            LOL.. ummm.. none of the above. You forgot to give me that choice.

          • MrBill

            I think God would be unhappy about false worship of Satan, not over whether a satanist got married, or helped a little old lady across the street, or what have you.

          • Eric Blair

            So, God wouldn’t be unhappy if a gay couple got married.

          • NAFTA Refugee

            Homosexuality is a sin. So is adultery, murder, lying, coveting, (there’s more, many many more). See your local pastor and/or bible for details. Homosexuals getting married would be taking a sin to the next level. Whatever that means. Hotter hellfire? Front row seating to the fire and brimstone show? Don’t know. Never been there. Don’t want to. I suspect a lot of things mankind does today don’t cut the mustard biblically speaking. But then you have to ask the question,,,, which bible? Which churches interpretation? If you’re a democrat, it’s a living breathing document that changes with time so all rules go out the window. Be popular. Let the people do what they want. As long as they fill the pews and pay their tithes and offerings to the church. Be happy. Don’t rock the boat. People can’t handle the truth. So vote democrat, and the government will take care of all those really hard decisions for you.

          • Eric Blair

            So the a marriage would be sacred if a gay couple entered the marriage, correct? There are Christian churches, and ministers, that will marry gay couples. Or, does any marriage require officiating by a minister, priest, shaman, or any other cleric?

          • NAFTA Refugee

            There are as many opinions on this topic as there are stars in the sky.
            Yah-weh (as taught to me) means the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
            God doesn’t change. People do.
            God’s rules don’t change. People’s politics do.
            The church is run by men and women.
            The church tries to gain membership in a world that continues to delve deeper into sin. The expression is used, hate the sin, not the sinner.
            Billy Graham teaches about God’s Grace, God’s forgiveness.
            NO ONE wants to hear the truth.
            The truth is we are all born of sin and we need to seek out Jesus.
            Telling homosexuals that their going to hell tends to polarize the issue.
            And we all know polarizing the homosexuals is bad, very bad.
            Like Jack Nickelson said, You can’t handle the truth.
            Don’t worry, be happy. Vote democrat.

          • MrBill

            That would be a pretend marriage. A marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

          • Eric Blair

            LOL.. and it doesn’t matter under what terms the marriage is conducted or conceived as long as it’s a man and a woman.

            God gets to discriminate on that basis (in your belief), but government is dedicated to equal protection of the laws.

          • redbean

            It’s biology, not discrimination. “Marriage” is between a man and a woman because the union of opposite genders normally and naturally produces offspring, and it’s in everyone’s interest to keep men connected to their children by binding the couple to a sexually exclusive lifelong bond. It’s about biology first and foremost and the rights of kids, not the feelings of adults or their need for validation.

            A “civil union” can be whatever the government says it is because it’s about the adults and the benefits they derive from their civil status, again based on how government decides to redistribute other people’s money.

            As in many other countries, we will probably see civil unions for everyone, followed by the religious ceremony, or not, as couples see fit. Churches will no longer be agents of the government, which is something to celebrate.

          • Selah

            Satanic vs. Hydre’ Salami Blair. Both mutton butt loins of scam purloined by atheists swish’n to obfuscate both mental midget derrieres abnormal tease.

          • NAFTA Refugee

            “They” have the right to chose which religion they follow, and which tenants of that religion they chose to follow. We are a country of many religions. If I were to say christian church that really doesn’t narrow it down much. Not all churches are the same. Not all mormons are the same, catholics, four square, lutheran, I could go on forever.

            Would you be offended if an Ahmish cake maker couldn’t make a cake for a gay wedding? He/she would be shunned.

          • Dick Winningstad

            I guess one should contribute heavily to the Dem party to become more equal than others, er, I mean a protected class.
            Strange how society has evolved.

          • NAFTA Refugee

            I have heard of cases where pharmacists have refused to fill orders for birth control pills, morning after pills due to their religious beliefs.

            I am reminded of the mennonites and some groups of mormons who are very devout to their way of life. Their code of honor forbids them from doing things that other people take for granted.

            The liberals take great pride on being tolerant of “everyone.” I’ve seen documentaries on television where scientist explore the deepest parts of Africa and discover tribes untouched by the outside world. it is recognized that this way of life should be honored. But when you dare to utter the word conservative, the tolerance fades away. Knuckle dragger. Simpleton. Bible thumper. Red neck. Just listen to Bill Maher go off on those people who live in “the bubble”.

            Away from the outside world. Clinging to their god and their guns.
            Almost like an aboriginal tribe.

          • Dick Winningstad

            Did you even read what was said?

          • Eric Blair


          • Dick Winningstad

            For content?

          • Eric Blair


          • redbean

            As a waiter, i.e. an employee, you would do whatever your boss said to do or find other employment. As a restaurant owner, you could sell kosher food, or not. This is a property rights issue. If the government can tell you how to use your property and your most valuable asset, your time, then you are a government employee, not a free citizen.

            Religious beliefs are whatever the individual says they are, at least according to the 1992 SCOTUS opinion upholding Roe v. Wade (Planned Parenhood v. Casey). The majority (including Anthony Kennedy, BTW) wrote, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

            As some folks say (erroneously IMHO), “What’s ‘true’ for you isn’t ‘true’ for me.” So, no, there are no limits, which is why the FSM is laughing at you behind your back.

          • Eric Blair

            Yet.. there are pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions, and county clerks who refuse to perform their duties, because of their religious beliefs.

            It seems awfully convenient when Sweet Cakes, who never advertised their business as a christian bakery — baking cakes only for people who follow christian beliefs– until their were confronted with something they didn’t like and then all of a sudden it was important.

          • redbean

            My understanding is that the bakery had served at least one of the ladies involved in the past – if I recall correctly, it was a cake for the lady’s mother’s wedding.

            Why advertise as a christian bakery when it had never been an issue before?

            Yes, they were suddenly confronted with the issue. It’s a new issue. We’re all in uncharted territory.

            Adults should be able to say to other adults: “I decline your business offer and the profit I would have made off of it.” No one dies because they have to choose another bakery.

  • kimisland

    Hi, Dan Lucas. We always share the credible stories you post here on our page https://www.facebook.com/EndMassIncarcerationOregon. Avakian does not treat Oregon’s African American complainants who come forward to BOLI with legitimate discriminatory complaints like he treated this one… I guess our skin is the wrong color for there are countless Black citizens of Oregon who have face FAR WORSE discriminatory practices in housing, law enforcement, other public accommodation and on nearly all other complaints file a “no-cause finding” is found; no discrimination occurred. I used to work for Avakian when he was a partner in the first Francesconi & Bush law firm and while I was there, he came on as a partner. When I applied for a promotion to move up, I was denied. I quit with little warning. Brad does things that benefit him, and not most citizens of Oregon. I don’t remember these two white gals or anyone like them being out on any plantation. Do you? Brad suq donkey doo.

    • Kim, it’s not only Blacks who are beening treated unfairly by Avakian!!

      Also, the Arab/Muslima American are treated less than human!!

      Oregon government is the most corrupted government!!

      Stealing our homes and children too!!

      NO one is holding these criminal officials accountable!!

      The late former Oregon A.G. Dave Frohnmayer had committed the most heinous crimes of the century, stealing our homes, stealing money from the UO etc.etc..

      The Lane County D.A. had NO JURISDICTION on Frohnmayer! He ran away with murder and no one held him accountable!!

      The whole Oregon’s government is complicit with Frohnmayer and his bank robber Rep. Bob Ackerman!!

  • RaymondSmith

    FYI, there is an almost identical case to Sweet Cakes taking place in Ireland. There they fined the baker 500 pounds, and counseled him and that was the end of it. I guess Irish reason is better than American demagoguery these days.

  • Jack Lord God

    At some point Westboro Baptist will figure out that they can make a fortune compelling gay photographers to shoot their weddings. Until that time, everyone involved in the cake idiocy really sounds kind of like a jerk.

  • Myke

    Marriage is simply a contract that is sanctioned and enforced by the state. Government needs to get out of the picking and choosing of whom, and mind the sanctity of contract law between two parties. That being said, BOLI is a perfect example of government that is over-bloated and has overstepped its usefulness. Freedom is the right to be offended, and the power to vote with your dollars elsewhere. Market forces provide a sound and reasonable solution to this case, making government interference unnecessary.

    • Wilhelm Teller Crossbow.

      Butthead factor Beavis [Eric Blair], aye find myself Imam in flavor of what thou sagest. As for BOLI, treat it as a noxious weed incoherent staled at sum jackass’d anal mall farmer’s docket and Roundup it with a fanning motion.

  • Joe

    I know this much for sure…if the cake wasn’t gluten free then this whole article is meaningless.

  • Selah Succorer

    To Barrack Avakian: Tear down your wail and ponder where you should be sent to jail. Fear not where Guzman got scent of freedom, better you should bake in a penal institution in your rootsland where Putin on the ritz is tribunal.

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