Catholic farmer banned from farmer’s market over religious beliefs
By Kevin Payne
A Catholic farmer has filed a lawsuit against the city of East Lansing, Michigan after he was banned from selling at a municipal farmer’s market over his religious beliefs.
Stephen Tennes, owner of Country Mill Farms, said that he and his family had been selling their blueberries and sweet corn at the city farmers market for the past seven years. But this year, city officials informed the devout Catholic family that they were no longer welcome at the market.
In a statement, the city of East Lansing said the farmer’s refusal to host a same-sex wedding violated a long-standing ordinance that protects sexual orientation as well as the Supreme court’s ruling that grants the right for same-sex couples to be married.
“We were surprised and we were shocked,” Tennes said. “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.”
Alliance Defending Freedom filed the federal lawsuit on June 7 alleging East Lansing violated the constitutional rights of the Tennes family.
“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 his religious views, by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people, then no American is free.”
While he has employed homosexuals at his farm, Tennes believes it would be a violation of his faith to participate in or allow a same-sex ceremony to be conducted on his property.
“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.