GoFundMe Disables Campaign for Christian Bakery after Pressure from Bakery’s Competitor

Because pro-marriage Sweet Cakes by Melissa has already been charged with violating an Oregon law against "discrimination," the crowd-funding company has pulled the bakery's campaign.

By Jay Richards Published on April 25, 2015

The next campaign in the war on marriage has begun.

Last week, I argued that one way to fight back against the campaign of destruction against lone bakers, pizzerias and florists who resist the war on marriage is to crowd-fund the victims. It worked with Memories Pizza in Walkerton, IN, which was the target of a search-and-destroy mission from a South Bend news crew. After the daughter of the owners of Memories Pizza told the news crew that they wouldn’t really want to cater a same-sex wedding, the pizzeria suffered vicious attacks from the activist swarm. In response, Dana Loesch set up a GoFundMe campaign, which quickly raised almost $850,000 for this little mom-and-pop operation.

It’s a promising strategy. The enemies of marriage and religious freedom pick out a small business owner, then the rest of us use their market research to discover who to support financially.

Well, a similar campaign was set up to help a Christian-owned Oregon bakery called Sweet Cakes by Melissa. For declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian “wedding,” the owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, have been ordered by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to pay a $135,000 fine. Let that sink in. If Aaron Klein had been caught shoplifting or driving 110 miles per hour on a busy interstate, the penalty would have been trivial in comparison.

But before we could even report on the Klein’s crowd-funding campaign, the campaign was disabled. Why? Because they have already been charged with a crime in Oregon.

A competitor of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Lisa Watson of Cupcake Jones, contacted GoFundMe to alert the crowd-funding company that the Kleins had violated the terms of service. She complained:

This business has been found GUILTY OF DISCRIMINATION and is being allowed to fundraise to pay their penalty. The gofundme terms of service address hate speech, bigotry, criminal activity and sexism among other things in their campaign … The amount of money they have raised in a matter of a few hours by thousands of anonymous cowards is disgusting.

And Watson promptly got the response she was hoping for. Here’s the statement from GoFundMe:

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 money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal. While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live. However, the subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”

Get it? The campaign for Memories Pizza worked because they were targeted by a news crew, but had never declined to cater an actual same-sex wedding. Since Sweet Cakes by Melissa has already been charged with a violation, GoFundMe has pulled their campaign. So if your throat is already under the government boot, you’re out of luck.

This is a form of cronyism — of collusion between a private business and the state to destroy that business’s competitors. But it’s a form of cronyism in America I had never before imagined. Note that Lisa Jones is motivated by disgust, not only at her competitor, but at those who stepped forward to help her competitor in a time of need.

Rather than dwell on that depressing perversion of justice, however, I’m hoping there’s an entrepreneur reading this who is interested in both doing well and doing good. There is a growing need for a crowd-funding company that can help the victims of grotesquely unjust laws like the one in Oregon. One of GoFundMe’s current competitors may be able to step in. If not, then there’s a growing and unmet need that calls for another company in the market.

Either way, that company won’t have to worry about competition from GoFundMe.


UPDATE: Several readers have notified me that the Christian non-profit organization headed by Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse, is now receiving donations for the Kleins:

Samaritan’s Purse is raising funds to help the Kleins pay their fine and meet other expenses. “They have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children.

“Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”

This is the traditional way such crises have been dealt with. Christian non-profit relief organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse as well as legal defense organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom have led the way, and are both doing important work. Some problems are best dealt with by non-profit means, some by for-profit means, and still others by both. We should let a thousand flowers bloom. At the same time, for-profit crowd-funding is a third option that had not occurred to anyone until recently. We should explore that option even for controversial causes, rather than being driven out of the sector prematurely.


Jay Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter at @FreemarketJay.

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