Religion

Farmer Denies Same-Sex Couples Service Per Religion (Video)

| by Michael Allen

Steve Tennes refuses to host gay weddings on his Charlotte, Michigan, farm because of his religious beliefs, but has found himself banned from a farmer's market in East Lansing, Michigan, which has nondiscrimination rules (video below).

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Tennes against East Lansing to allow Tennes to participate in the farmer's market.

Tennes and the ADF insist that Tennes' personal religious beliefs are being attacked, while the East Lansing Farmer's Market cites Tennes' actions, specifically, openly discriminating against same-sex couples.

In a press release, ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson explained how Tennes should have the right to discriminate, but not be discriminated against:

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All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him. 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.

In December 2016, Tennes announced that he was only going to allow heterosexual weddings on his farm -- Country Mill -- via Facebook:

This past fall our family farm stopped booking future wedding ceremonies at our orchard until we could devote the appropriate time to review our policies and how we respectfully communicate and express our beliefs.

The Country Mill engages in expressing its purpose and beliefs through the operation of its business and it intentionally communicates messages that promote its owners’ beliefs and declines to communicate messages that violate those beliefs.

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The Country Mill family and its staff have and will continue to participate in hosting the ceremonies held at our orchard. 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.

For this reason, Country Mill reserves the right to deny a request for services that would require it to communicate, engage in, or host expression that violates the owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs and conscience.

Furthermore, it remains our religious belief that all people should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs or background. We appreciate the tolerance offered to us specifically regarding our participation in hosting wedding ceremonies at our family farm.

While the state of Michigan has no law on discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation, East Lansing's ordinances prohibit sexual orientation discrimination:

Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (1) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, height, weight, disability, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, student status, or because of the use by an individual of adaptive devices or aids.

The East Lansing Farmer’s Market guidelines say that vendors must be "[c]omplying with the City of East Lansing’s Civil Rights ordinances and the public policy against discrimination contained in Chapter 22 of the East Lansing City Code while at the ELFM and as a general business practice."

The ADF insists that rule doesn't apply to Tennes because he and "his family, and the orchard are in Charlotte, 22 miles from East Lansing, well outside the city’s boundaries and beyond its jurisdiction."

Sources: Alliance Defending Freedom, The Country Mill/Facebook, LGBTmap.org, City Of East Lansing (2) / Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

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