- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A new crowdfunding campaign on behalf of Sweet Cakes by Melissa was launched Tuesday after a similar effort was removed last week by GoFundMe.

The campaign “Help Sweetcakes by Melissa” is posted on Continue to Give, an online crowdfunding platform aimed at helping raise money for churches, missionaries, non-profits and individuals, according to the website.

“We are in the business of helping people help others,” said Continue to Give founder Jesse Wellhoefer in a statement. “Continue to give is a fundraising platform that simply allows the community to decide who and what they support.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised $912 on the crowdfunding site, which is smaller and offers lower fees than GoFundMe.

Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the bakery in Gresham, Oregon, face the prospect of a $135,000 damages award for violating the state’s non-discrimination law for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013. The damages order from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is proposed and not final.

The Kleins confirmed in a Facebook post Tuesday that they had accepted Continue to Give’s “gracious offer,” adding that, “Of course, we don’t expect anything.”

SEE ALSO: Sweet Cakes Christian-owned bakery GoFundMe drive pulled after gay-rights advocates complain

“We were recently contacted by an organization called Continue to Give offering to establish an alternative fundraising platform for us in light of Gofundme’s decision to remove the account set up for our benefit,” said the post by Sweet Cakes by Melissa. “We accepted their gracious offer and have set up an account.”

“Of course, we don’t expect anything,” the post said. “However, so many people have asked where and how they can support us that it makes sense to establish this central and convenient platform should anyone want to give to us directly.”

GoFundMe removed a crowdfunding campaign on the couple’s behalf less than a day after the effort was posted April 24, following complaints from gay-marriage supporters. During that time, the campaign raised more than $109,000 on behalf of the Kleins, which the website said they would be able to keep.

In a statement, GoFundMe cited its policy against “formal charges in defense of heinous crimes,” prompting critics to point out that the Kleins had not been charged with a crime. A few days later, GoFundMe changed the policy to include a ban on “claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts.”

The policy change makes it easier to pull down campaigns for Christian-owned business owners fighting discrimination charges after refusing to provide services for gay weddings. Another such campaign on behalf of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, was also removed by GoFundMe.

The Continue to Give page on behalf of the bakery said in its mission statement, “Every American should be free to live and work according to their faith without the government punishing them for doing so.”

The Facebook page Boycott Sweetcakes by Melissa, which had called on its supporters to complain about the original GoFundMe original campaign, had not yet commented about the newly launched crowdfunding campaign.

“Wanting to buy a cake isn’t asking for a baker’s participation in the wedding. It’s expecting a business to do what they went into business for,” said a Tuesday post on the Facebook page.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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