A Catholic family that owns a farm in Michigan has been literally driven out of the marketplace because of their religious beliefs.
The Tennes family has been growing crops like organic apples, blueberries, pumpkins, and sweet corn at their farm in Lansing since 1977. And they’ve been selling their produce at the town’s farmer’s market for the past seven years.
“The mission here at our family farm — the Country Mill — is to glorify God by facilitating family fun in the farm and feeding families,” Steve Tennes said in a video put out by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
This year, city officials told the devout family that they were no longer welcome at the farmer’s market because, in answer to a question on their Facebook page, Tennes said he wouldn’t host same-sex weddings on their family farm.
Via Fox News:
Last year, someone posted a message on Country Mill’s Facebook page inquiring about whether they hosted same-sex weddings at the farm.
Tennes told the individual they did not permit same-sex marriages on the farm because of the family’s Catholic belief that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman.
City officials later discovered the Facebook posting and began immediate action to remove Country Mill from the Farmer’s Market – alleging the family had violated the city’s discrimination ordinance.
“It was brought to our attention that The Country Mill’s general business practices do not comply with 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, as such, The Country Mill’s presence as a vendor his prohibited by the City’s Farmer’s Market Vendor Guidelines,” read a letter the city sent to the family.
It also did not seem to matter to city leaders that the farm is located 22 miles outside the city limits – and had absolutely nothing to do with the business of selling blueberries at the farmer’s market
“We were surprised and we were shocked,” Steve told Fox News’ Todd Starnes. “My wife and I both volunteered to serve in the military – to protect freedom. Now we come home and the freedom that we worked to protect we have to defend in our own backyard.”
“Whether you are a Jew, Muslim or Christian – people of faith should not be eradicated from the marketplace simply because they don’t share the same thoughts and ideas that the government is choosing to promote,” Steve told Fox News.
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said that “regardless of your religious views, if you’re doing business in East Lansing … discriminating against same-sex couples is not allowed even if on your own private property.”
“If the same thing were held where they were excluding people because of their race or religion from purchasing products at their facility in another city, then wanted to sell at our farmers market and say, ‘but we’re not discriminating here’…that to us isn’t acceptable,” Lahanas stated.
Lahanas told WLNS6, “If Tennes were to allow same-sex couples to wed at his farm or simply not allow weddings at all … he and his family would be allowed back to the farmers market.”
Tennes told News10 that they stopped hosting marriage ceremonies on the farm last year because hosting same-sex marriages would conflict with their religious beliefs, but the Country Mill website still has a “Wedding and Barn Rental” page.
Tennes told Fox News that he thinks the city of Lansing developed the policy specifically to bar his family from the farmer’s market. Kristian Waggoner of the ADF said that the city is violating the family’s constitutional rights by forcing them to give up their livelihood and religious beliefs if they don’t do what the city says.
“What’s important here is that they [the city] serve everyone. It is the city of East Lansing here that is engaging in the discrimination and telling them that they can’t serve everyone at that farmer’s market,” she said.
Wisconsin State Representative Tom Barrett put out a statement supporting the Tennes family: “I applaud their courage to bring this issue forward. Steve and Bridget did not ask for this battle but I am proud to stand with them as they fight for religious freedom and free speech,” he said.
In the video below, Steve said that the family had been working at the farmer’s market for seven years without any complaints.
“Never before would I ever have thought that the faith that we have here in our family at our home — at our farm — would prohibit us from being allowed to participate in the community,” he said.
“All of a sudden I felt like we couldn’t even believe what we wanted to believe — we had to be quiet,” Bridget Tennes said incredulously.
The family retained the services of the Alliance Defending Freedom to help them fight the injustice. ADF filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that East Lansing violated the family’s constitutional rights.
“All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him,” said ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson. “People of faith, like the Tennes family, should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of losing their livelihood. If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free.”
PJ Media reached out to the East Lansing Market Manager and the Country Mill Farm for comment and will update if and when responses are given.