Farmer banned from market for his views on marriage


A Michigan court says a Catholic farmer’s religious freedom was violated when his views on marriage saw him banned from selling his products at a market.

“We’re very grateful for all the prayers and support we’ve received,” says Country Mill Farms owner Steve Tennes (pictured with his family).

Faith has always been part of the family business.

“Our Catholic faith is something we try to incorporate in everything we do. … It goes far beyond Sunday morning.”

“This is a victory for all Americans to live out our beliefs.”

What happened

The friction began over a Facebook post seven years ago.

Tennes wrote that he and his business adhere to the Catholic teaching related to same-sex marriage.

As Tennes offered part of his property as a wedding venue but excluded same-sex weddings, officials claimed he violated the city’s nondiscrimination policies.

They refused to let him sell produce at the market.

Religious freedom

Refusing Tennes access to the market was wrong, the U.S. District Court found. The city’s refusal violated Tennes constitutional rights under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.

The city cannot exclude Country Mill from the market based on Tennes’ adherence to his Catholic beliefs.

The right to religious freedom does not apply only to religious organisations, the Court noted.

“The city’s decision to exclude Country Mill Farms … constituted a burden on [Tennes’] religious beliefs.”

The city was forcing Tennes to choose between his religious beliefs “and a government benefit for which [Country Mill Farms was] otherwise qualified.”

Kate Anderson, the senior counsel representing Tennes, says the government should not deny someone’s right to participate in a business opportunity based on his or her religious beliefs.

“The court ruling was a strong voice for religious freedom,” she says.

Anderson says there is a trend of more and more government officials passing policies and enforcing laws in a way that targets people of faith.

The policies and laws are related particularly to religious beliefs about gender and sexuality, she says.

She notes that courts have struck down many of these policies, adding “Those laws are wrong, and they’re being challenged across the country.”

“Every American should be free to live according to their religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the City of East Lansing says the city is reviewing the court’s opinion and “will be discussing potential options.”

Tennes says he hopes to build a better relationship with current city officials.


Additional reading

News category: World.