A Christian farming family was about to bring in their produce to a farmers market only to be informed that they were prohibited from selling there any longer. When they asked the reason, they soon realized that it was all because of a certain belief they have.
At the start of the season, Country Mill Farms Inc. founder Steve Tennes and his family planned to sell their harvest at a farmers market in East Lansing. Just as he was about to set up his stall, however, city officials informed him that he was no longer welcome to do business at the community event. Unbelievably, the livelihood of the farmer and his family was at stake all because of a personal belief they held.
Tennes was banned by the city of Lansing from selling at the local farmers market after they discovered that he believes in traditional marriage in support of his Christian values. Although the Christian farmer’s personal beliefs had never interfered with his farming business, city officials prohibited him from selling his produce at the market due to his “discrimination,” the Lansing State Journal reports.
The city admitted that the decision to deny Tennes a license to sell in the farmers market based on a Facebook post in which he announced his family’s decision not to cater to same-sex weddings at the private Charlotte orchard. There is no evidence to suggest that Tennes has refused to serve homosexuals in his farming business, only that he does not want to participate in LGBT marriages.
In a letter, the city informed Tennes that his Christian belief was not in line with the farmers market guidelines. However, officials had reportedly changed their policy between the time that Tennes made the social media post and they had denied his license. As if to legitimize their discrimination of Tennes, the city then rewrote their guidelines to include “general business practice” among the areas in which the anti-discrimination policy applied, according to FOX News.
The Tennes family has chosen to file a lawsuit against the city to allow him to freely practice his business. As their attorney explains, if a government entity can regulate business because of an individual’s religious belief, they can do it to anyone for any reason.
“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 city maintains that they did not ban Tennes based on his religious belief but his decision not to rent his orchard out for same-sex weddings, which, of course, is in accordance with his religious belief.
“The plaintiffs are free to say and believe whatever they choose,” the city wrote in a brief to the court. “However, once that commercial enterprise has announced that it will not serve a particular class of people – essentially posting a sign stating ‘No Gay Couples Allowed’ – the City is not constitutionally required to do business with it.”
Oddly enough, the city officials have actually gone against the majority of those they represent. The vast majority of people have complained to the city that they do not support banning the Tennes family from a public space. Still, the handful of powerful elected officials insist upon enforcing their will.
The case is a clear example of hypocrisy and tyranny. The city has discriminated against a man and his family because they claim he has discriminated against others. The difference is that consumers can choose to find another business if they disagree with the owner’s values. The Tennes family, however, is at the mercy of their city government.