Gay activist’s campaign to raise money for Oregon bakers falls flat

by christiannewsjournal

An unconventional crowdfunding campaign to show Christian love by donating money to bakery owners who declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding has proved to be a challenge for one gay Christian.

Matt Stolhandske, a board member of the newly created Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, wrote a Washington Post op-ed Oct. 17 asking others to join him in raising funds for Melissa and Aaron Klein, Portland-based Christian bakery owners who, in 2013, declined to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding. Stolhandske wrote that he knew the campaign would generate “shouts from progressive and gay friends.”

“I am not rewarding their behavior, but rather loving them in spite of it,” wrote Stolhandske, a gay Christian advocate who has worked on international development projects. “It is time for these two communities, which both cite genuine love as our motivation, to put aside our prejudices and put down our pitchforks to clear the path for progress.”

But the campaign has generated only $4,279 of its $150,000 goal since mid-October.

The idea was unwelcome from both gay activists and those who oppose same-sex marriage. His activism was a conflict of interest given his work with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, Eliel Cruz wrote for The Advocate.

“You cannot serve on a board for marriage equality, then financially support someone who wants the right to refuse service to LGBT people,” Cruz wrote. It’s full equality or none at all.”

The move was a publicity stunt, wrote Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration project, which works to preserve traditional marriage.

“It seemed obvious to me that the right, and truly Christian course, would be to stick up for the fundamental freedom of religion and conscience,” Teetsel wrote on Facebook.

A total of 334 donors participated in the campaign, most pledging $10 to $25 each.

“While I am disappointed that we did not meet our admittedly aggressive financial objective, I’m encouraged by the outpouring of support from Christians all over the world who joined me in extending an olive branch to the family,” Stolhandske wrote in an email. “This fundraiser wasn’t singularly focused on raising money: I also wanted to send the Kleins a message of kindness and compassion in an effort to change the tenor of our faithful conversation about marriage equality from one of intolerance to one of love.”

Stolhandske said the Kleins will receive the money soon. “We have made initial effort to reach out to them and as soon as those logistics are straightened out, we will stop the campaign where it is and transfer over the funds,” he said.

The state has not levied a fine against the Kleins, said Anna Harmon, a lawyer representing the bakery owners.

Harmon said she wasn’t sure Stolhandske had approached the Kleins about the campaign.

The lesbian couple suing the owners alleged that the Kleins’ decision not to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony caused them physical, emotional and mental damages in the amount of at least $75,000 each (totaling $150,000). Damages could be awarded to the couple if the Kleins do not win their trial set to start March 10.

The bakery closed in 2013.

— by Sarah Pulliam Bailey | RNS

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