The owners of a farm in Michigan filed a lawsuit against the city of East Lansing after they were reportedly banned from a local farmers market in 2016 because of their biblical viewpoint on marriage. Their case is being heard in federal court this week.
Steve and Bridget Tennes of Country Mill Farms operate an orchard farm and host weddings on their property. They say they used to set up a booth at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market to sell produce, but they were told they could no longer be a vendor at the farmers market, CBN News reports.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom said East Lansing city officials targeted the Tennes because of a Facebook post.
“All of a sudden I felt like we couldn’t even believe what we wanted to believe,” Bridget said. “We had to be quiet.”
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said the city is against the Tennes’ “corporate decision-making” and not their religious beliefs.
In 2017, a judge issued a preliminary order that forced the city to allow the Tennes family to participate in the farmers market.
When the family wanted to be a vendor the next season, Meadows said the judge’s ruling only covered the 2017 market season.
A city policy requires vendors to agree to comply with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination while at the market and as a general business practice.”
Under the policy, it is illegal for anyone to “make a statement which indicates that an individual’s patronage or presence at a place of public accommodation is unwelcome or unacceptable because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.”
In August 2016, someone posted on Country Mill Farms' Facebook page, asking about the family’s beliefs on marriage. They replied that as Catholics, they believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.
“Our family farm here is very personal to us,” Steve said. “One of the things we really enjoy about our family farm here is (that) we are able to raise our five children here at the farm in accordance with our faith.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Mark Edward Atkinson
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.