Gofundme Removes Christian Bakery crowdfunder campaign as it breaks record with $352K

A crowdfunding campaign for the Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa has set a site record by raising $352,500 in about two months after being kicked off the GoFundMe website, far exceeding the initial goal of $150,000.

Jesse Wellhoefer, founder of Continue to Give, said the Sweet Cakes effort has raised more than any previous campaign on behalf of individuals in the three-year-old crowdfunding website’s history.

Continue to Give also handles ongoing fundraising for nonprofit organizations as well as mobile and kiosk tithing for churches.

GoFundMe, the nation’s largest crowdfunder, removed a campaign for Sweet Cakes by Melissa in April after receiving complaints from gay-marriage supporters. The bakery’s owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, are locked in a legal battle with the state for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, citing their religious beliefs.

Mr. Wellhoefer said his company had received “lots and lots” of complaints about the Sweet Cakes crowdfunding campaign, but that he has refused to remove it.

“Lots of people have been asking us to take it off,” Mr. Wellhoefer said. “Our response has been, ‘Thank you for your concern, have a great day and God bless you.’”

Launched May 5, the Sweet Cakes crowdfunding campaign has received 7,651 donations and thousands of messages of support such as, “Keep on fighting,” “God bless you,” and “Don’t back down!! We are standing with you.”

The Oregon labor commissioner ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for “emotional damages” to Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer after declining to prepare a cake for their June 2013 commitment ceremony.

Mr. Klein had informed the couple that he was sorry but that the bakery did not prepare cakes for same-sex ceremonies as a result of the family’s religious convictions. Gay marriage was not legal in Oregon at the time.

The Kleins are expected to appeal the labor commissioner’s July 2 decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

GoFundMe changed its policy on disallowed campaigns after pulling the Sweet Cakes fundraiser. At first GoFundMe explained the removal by citing 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,” making it easier to remove campaigns for Christian-owned business owners fighting discrimination charges after declining to provide services for gay weddings.

The Kleins were permitted to keep the $109,000 already raised on GoFundMe before the campaign was removed.

Mr. Wellhoefer said any money raised on Continue to Give goes directly to a third-party processor and then to the beneficiary’s bank account.

By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times / 3/15

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