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Farmer Barred from Open Market for Refusing to Let Homosexuals “Marry” on His Property – Sues City

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Published on: June 1, 2017

A Michigan farmer is suing East Lansing for excluding him from an open-air market because of his Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Steve Tennes, owner of Country Mill Farms, refused to allow a homosexual couple “marry” on his property.  As a result, he filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday which alleged the city excluded him from the market because of his religious convictions.

According to the lawsuit, the case is about a policy, “specifically created by the City of East Lansing to exclude a farmer whose family farm is twenty-two miles outside the City from participating in its city-run farmers market solely because the City dislikes the farmer’s profession of his religious beliefs about marriage on Facebook.”

The suit alleges that the policy violates rights he has under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, as well as state law, which prohibits Michigan cities from regulating activities outside city boundaries.

Country Mills Farms has participated in the market since 2010 as an “Invitational Vendor.”  According to the suit, “Country Mill was an exceptional vendor year after year.”

However, after he decided to share his belief on Facebook that marriage can only be between one man and one woman and that he honors that belief when it comes to hosting and participating in weddings on his property, the town of East Lansing began to immediately take action to remove Country Mill from the Farmer’s Market.

The post did not mention the Farmer’s Market nor did it mention East Lansing.  Nothing about Tennes’ post broke federal or state law.

According to the suit, the city took several steps to remove Country Mill from the Farmer’s Market.  According to the suit:

  1. First, City officials pressured Country Mill to leave the Market, telling the Tennes family that because of their statement of their religious beliefs (1) the City did not want them at the Market that coming Sunday and (2) people would protest and disrupt the Market if Country Mill continued to participate in it.
  2. When Country Mill decided to attend the remaining two months of the Farmer’s Market season, which they did without any protests or disruptions, East Lansing stopped asking Country Mill to leave and started work to ban Country Mill by City Policy.
  3. The Home Rule City Act prohibits such extra-jurisdictional enforcement of City laws.  So, in an effort to circumvent this limitation on their jurisdiction, the City adopted a new Policy for the 2017 Market specifically designed to illegally extend its jurisdiction outside the City and to exclude Country Mill, and only Country Mill from the Market.
  4. The Policy incorporated the language of the City’s Human Relations Ordinance by reference and required all 2017 Farmer’s Market Vendors to comply with the City’s interpretation of the Ordinance and its “public policy against discrimination . . . while at the [Market]” and in the vendors’ “general business practice[s].” See Exhibit 1 (East Lansing Farmer’s Market 2017 Vendor Guidelines attached to the letter from the City) (emphasis added).
  5. The City included the phrase “general business practice[s]” specifically to reach beyond its geographical limits so it could target and exclude Country Mill from the Farmer’s Market.
  6. When applications opened for the 2017 Market season, the City did not invite Country Mill as it had for the past six years.
  7. When Country Mill applied through the non-invitational process, the City pulled Country Mill’s application from the normal review process and reviewed it separately, something it did not do for other vendor applications. 18. The City then excluded Country Mill from the Market for violating its new Policy

The city then cited Tennes’ Facebook post regarding his beliefs about marriage as the reason they were denying Country Mill in the Farmer’s Market.  Whatever happened to all this non-discrimination that these kinds of people like to voice?

Tennes is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.

“All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him,” ADF attorney Kate Anderson said. “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.”

The utter hypocrisy of the city showed when Mayor Mark Meadows, who is openly violating the city’s policy with regards to vendors and discrimination said, “This is about them operating a business that discriminates against LGBT individuals and that’s a whole different issue.”

And what about a city that has these type of goons running it that discriminate because people actually have a conscience and voice it?  Defending those who engage in unnatural acts and then attempt to pervert the sacred institute of marriage though, well, that’s high atop Mr. Meadows’ list of priorities.  It makes you wonder what is really going on in the private life of Mr. Meadows, doesn’t it?

One wonders if it had anything to do with Caitlin Ortis, who urged people to boycott Country Mill for allegedly refusing to allow her to “marry” another woman, Liane.

“As fall approaches for my Michigan friends and family, when choosing a cider mill to go to, please remember that THE COUNTRY MILL in Charlotte MI refused to let Liane and I have our wedding there because of how we identify,” Ortis wrote on Country Mill Facebook’s page. “Please support a local cider mill that does NOT discriminate against LGBTQIA+ folks or any folks for that matter. Please feel free to share this post.”

What’s interesting is that Tennes has employees that are part of the LGBT community and his customers obviously come from a wide background of beliefs and ethnicities, as well as other life choices.

“My wife Bridget and I feel tolerance is a two-way street,” he said.

Well, that’s just it, isn’t it?  With these kinds of people, there is no tolerance, and the more good people tolerate the actions of the lawless without instituting justice, the less tolerable they will become until they have their boots on the back of our necks.  As ADF points out in their lawsuit, multiple laws and policies are violated.  The city and its mayor, along with Ortis and her girlfriend are violating law and the rights of the Tennes all over the place and all anyone can talk about is how intolerant Steve Tennes is.

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