Internet Rumor about Why Oregon Couple was Fined is False

The internet rumor claims the Oregon couple was not fined for refusing to make a same sex “wedding” cake.

As you probably know, an Oregon couple that owns a bakery business got fined $135,000 when they turned down a Lesbian couple that wanted them to bake their “wedding” cake. One version of this story started circulating claiming that the business was fined for publishing the names and addresses of the Lesbian couple thus making them vulnerable to various levels of hate and damages.

It is all false. The couple were fined for the “crime” of saying “no” to a customer. Or perhaps for the terrible emotional damage that was inflicted by saying, “No, we don’t believe in same-sex ‘marriage’” in a state that, at the time, did not recognize the fiction of same-sex marriage.

As a secular Libertarian writes at the Washington Post website,

It’s true that the agency sought to hold the bakery owners liable for publicizing the complaint against them. But the Commissioner expressly rejected this theory of liability (emphasis added):

In its closing argument, the Agency asked the forum to award Complainants $75,000 each in emotional suffering damages stemming directly from the denial of service, In addition, the Agency asked the forum to award damages to Complainants for emotional suffering they experienced as a result of the media and social media attention generated by the case from January 29, 2013, the date AK posted LBC’s DOJ complaint on his Facebook page, up to the date of hearing. The Agency’s theory of liability is that since Respondents brought the case to the media’s attention and kept it there by repeatedly appearing in public to make statements deriding Complainants, it was foreseeable that this attention would negatively impact Complainants, making Respondents liable for any resultant emotional suffering experienced by Complainants. The Agency also argues that Respondents are liable for negative third party social media directed at Complainants because it was a foreseeable consequence of the media attention.

The Commissioner concludes that complainants’ emotional harm related to the denial of service continued throughout the period of media attention and that the facts related solely to emotional harm resulting from media attention do not adequately support an award of damages. No further analysis regarding the media attention as a causative factor is, therefore, necessary.

Now I think the Agency’s theory, presented in its capacity as essentially as the civil case equivalent of a prosecutor, is outrageous: People have a First Amendment right to publicize the complaints against them, including the names of the complainants, notwithstanding the possible bad publicity for the complainants (just as complainants have to be free to publicize the names of the people they are complaining about). And while it’s possible that rules requiring the redaction of the complainants’ home addresses might be constitutional (but see p. 1115 of this article), I know of no such requirement under Oregon law.

But, in any event, the Commissioner didn’t buy the Agency’s theory, unless there’s something about the decision that I’m missing.

That seems pretty clear.

So why did people want to believe this and attempt to pass it off as true?

Maybe there is no need to explain the gullibility. We all make mistakes. I’ve fallen for hoax news stories before as have many of you.

But, if an explanation is called for, then there are a couple of hopeful signs in this rumor. First, it seems to indicate that attempting to destroy a couple of Christian business owners for refusing to participate in or create a message of endorsing something they don’t believe in is simply out of bounds. It is uncivilized and un-American and everyone knows it. Thus, it was psychologically necessary for people who took the side of the Lesbian couple to generate some pleasant falsehood to hide from themselves the way an act of aggression has been committed against this couple. Second, it at least indicates a feeling that the raw story, as it stands, is going to provoke a backlash. Therefore, the false explanation for the fine is a way of trying to diminish or delay that backlash.

However, since the agency did, in fact, attempt to add additional punishments to the couple on the grounds of them speaking out about the extremely severe financial attack on their livelihoods, we do see yet another indication that, not only is the freedom of religion in the First Amendment being attacked, but also the freedom of speech. If you can’t tell people when you are being targeted by the government, then the First Amendment is a dead letter.