The city of East Lansing, Michigan, won't let a Christian farmer participate in their farmer's market because of his views on gay marriage. The farmer is fighting back through legal action against the city.
Marine veteran Steve Tennes runs a farm called Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, Michigan – which is about 25 miles southwest from East Lansing – that provides various activities for people to enjoy, such as corn mazes, and also serves as a venue for events like weddings.
Two women requested in 2014 that they be married at Country Mill Farms, but Tennes declined, citing his religious views as a Christian. He gave them a specific orchard venue for them to hold their wedding ceremony. They were eventually married elsewhere in 2015, but in 2016 one of the women advocated for people to avoid Country Mill Farms.
Tennes initially announced that the farm would stop hosting weddings, but later posted on Facebook that they would once again allow the venue to host weddings.
"It remains our deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment right to express and act upon its beliefs," Tennes wrote. "For this reason, Country Mill reserves the right to deny a request for services that would require it to communicate, engage in, or host expression that violates the owners' sincerely held religious beliefs and conscience."
The city of East Lansing warned Tennes that not allowing same-sex weddings on his farm went against a city ordinance, but the city was powerless to enforce it against Tennes since he in fact lived outside of East Lansing. Instead, the city attempted to pressure Tennes not to sell his products at the city's farmers' market to supposedly prevent riots from happening. Tennes did so anyway in August and no riots occurred.
In 2017, East Lansing changed its permit policy, forcing Tennes to submit a new application for a permit. The permit was denied under the rationale that the farm violated "East Lansing’s civil rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination as set forth in Chapter 22 of the City Code and outlined in the 2017 market vendor guidelines."
The mayor of East Lansing, Mark Meadows, told the Lansing State Journal, "This is about them operating a business that discriminates against LGBT individuals and that's a whole different issue."
Tennes is now filing a lawsuit against East Lansing; he is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
The organization's lead counsel, Kate Anderson, told the Lansing State Journal, "They are running their farm according to their beliefs, which is the right of every American. What is wrong here is the city of East Lansing targeting them and trying to discriminate against them for acting upon their beliefs and for believing."
Tennes told Conservative Review, "The government should not force anyone to be silent about their thoughts and ideas just in order to avoid government punishment. Whether you're a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian farmer, you should be able to speak free about your beliefs, live out those beliefs, and also serve your customers."
H/T: The Daily Signal