It seems that in 21st century America, bigotry can be profitable. Just ask Melissa and Aaron Klein.
The Kleins were the owners of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” the Gresham, Oregon bakery that was recently fined $135,000 in a case involving their refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The case has pitted the “oh, look at us poor, oppressed Christians” crowd against sane people who understand that public businesses are obligated to serve the public.
The Kleins were so upset at the thought that they might have to serve people who don’t meet with their approval, they closed their doors. Earlier this year they set up a GoFundMe page, which netted them some $109,000, which they were allowed to keep, before it was shut down. So the Kleins moved their begging campaign to another site, Continue To Give. Because nothing says “personal responsibility” to a conservative like asking for a handout from people you don’t know.
Continue To Give advertises as “a faith based giving platform,” and at the top of the homepage there’s a link for people to donate to help Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Note how the link calls for donors to “support Sweetcakes by Melissa and religious freedom.”
The campaign appears to be paying off for the Kleins, as the Washington Times reports that, as of July 14, they have collected$352,500 in donations. Jesse Wellhoefer, who founded Continue To Give, says that is an all time record in the three year history of the site. Wellhoefer says that he has received many of the same sort of complaints that caused GoFundMe to take down the Klein’s campaign there. He says:
“Lots of people have been asking us to take it off. Our response has been, ‘Thank you for your concern, have a great day and God bless you.’”
Of course Wellhoefer isn’t going to take down the Kleins’ fundraising campaign. Praise the Lord and pass the collection plate. Continue To Give gets 3.9 percent of the funds donated, plus 60 cents per donation. With over 7,600 donations, that means Wellhoefer’s site has collected over $18,000 from just this one campaign. To be fair, some of that money will be used to pay the credit card transaction fees, but even after those have been paid, Wellhoefer’s site still gets to bank a decent amount of money.
The Kleins released a statement through their lawyer, which reads:
We are humbled and thankful for the generosity and support of the American public. The amount shows that Americans all over this country are acting on their beliefs and loudly saying that they do not agree with a government that punishes people for their religious beliefs.
At this time, we do not know exactly how we will use the funds that have been donated to us because: 1) Since our business was shut down two years ago, we are continuing to face financial hardship 2) We are unsure at this time what other costs may be associated with our case in the future as we continue to stand strong for our freedom 3) We are seeking advice regarding how the government will tax the money we’ve been given and 4) We are waiting to see whether BOLI will stay the collection of the $135,000 (at an interest rate of 9%) during the appeal.
The “mission statement” on the Continue To Give page for the Kleins says:
“Every American should be free to live and work according to their faith without the government punishing them for doing so.”
Isn’t it also fair to say that every American should be free to purchase what they choose, from whatever business they choose, without being denied service because of the personal prejudices of the business owner?
Here’s an idea. Say you own a business, and your religious beliefs tell you to disapprove of someone’s lifestyle. Instead of taking the route the Kleins took, why not do this? Provide the service, take their money, then donate that money to your church, or to a charity. You don’t have to keep what you consider tainted money, you don’t break the law because you provided the service, and your church or a charity gets help for doing things you approve of. Surely Jesus would be ok with that, right?
Best of all, you don’t have to go begging for money from strangers. Unless enriching yourself by asking other bigots to support your bigotry is really what you want to do.