By Todd Starnes, FOX NEWS
One of America's most respected Evangelical Christian leaders has come to the defense of a Christian bakery facing a fierce assault from militant LGBT activists and the government.
Franklin Graham has announced he will back a fundraising effort to help Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes By Melissa in Oregon.
On Friday a judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) recommended a lesbian couple should receive $135,000 in damages for their emotional suffering after the Kleins refused to make them a wedding cake.
The Kleins have already lost their home. Now the government and the LGBT activists want to throw them out on the street.
Within hours of the ruling, the Family Research Council facilitated the establishment of a GoFundMe account to help the Christian family raise the money they needed to pay the fine. In less than eight hours, more than $100,000 was raised.
However, late Friday GoFundMe pulled the plug — sending this message to would-be donors:
“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 message read. “The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said GoFundMe caved under pressure from gay activists.
Enter Franklin Graham.
He decided to let people donate to the Klein family through Samaritan’s Purse.
“The Kleins have already had to close their Oregon bakery business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa and do not have this money to pay,” Graham wrote. “Aaron said it would financially ruin their family and could cost them their home. They have done nothing wrong, and their lives, along with their five children, have been turned upside down by this persecution.”
Graham doubled down on his assertion that what is happening to the family is persecution.
“You can’t call it anything else,” he wrote. “This is wrong, and it’s happening right here in our own country. Liberal judges and officials siding with the LGBT crowd are trying to make a point with the undeserved punishment of this family. This is America—we should have the freedom to live by our sincerely held religious beliefs. It’s obvious who is really being discriminated against here.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins blasted the harsh penalty levied against the Kleins.
“The state of Oregon has given a new meaning to shotgun weddings,” Perkins said. “You will be forced to participate in same-sex weddings and violate your beliefs.”
Perkins wondered what impact the Oregon ruling would have on religious freedom across the country.
“If Americans are not free to decline to be involved in a specific activity that violates their beliefs, then we are not free,” he said.
It’s not exactly clear what led GoFundMe to drop the fundraising drive - but Perkins blamed it on gay activists.
“This reveals two very important aspects of the redefinition of marriage, Americans are not going along with it and two - the intolerance of those trying to redefine marriage is historically unprecedented,” Perkins said.
Aaron Klein told me they will appeal the judge’s recommended fine.
“All Americans should be free to live and work by their faith without the fear of the government punishing them,” he told me.
Klein told me the gay rights activists won’t be satisfied until her family is living in a homeless shelter.
“This is not coming out of our business assets - the business has already been shuttered,” he said. “This is coming out of personal property. They want to take our house. They want to put us out on the street.”
Melissa told me the state of Oregon is trying to send a message to Christian business owners.
“They are trying to say — look what will happen to you if you decide to live by your faith,” she said. “They won’t be satisfied until we lose everything.”
The Kleins said they were incredibly moved by the generosity of their supporters.
And while they were disappointed that GoFundMe removed the campaign - they are not upset.
“If GoFundMe does not believe in our cause or what we are doing — that’s their right,” Aaron told me. “And that’s what we are fighting for. We should have that right, too. If it goes against our faith or beliefs we should be able to say we won’t do that.”
The Kleins also had kind words for Franklin Graham. They talked by telephone on Friday.
“A while ago Franklin told me that if I needed anything to give him a call,” Aaron said. “So I called him after the verdict. He said to not get discouraged — that God is good.”
I have one observation.
If a company like GoFundMe can decline customers based on their beliefs, why can’t a Christian-owned company decline customers based on their beliefs?