First Amendment Under Fire: East Lansing blocks family farm from market because of faith

May 31, 2017

Commentary, News

fullsizeoutput-9834_origFor six years, the City of East Lansing extended an invitation to Steve and Bridget Tennes to participate in the City’s farmer’s market. This summer, however, customers won’t have the chance to enjoy organic apples and cider from Country Mill Farms of Charlotte at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market – because the City has enacted a new policy specifically aimed at blocking their return.

“Our faith has made us a target of government discrimination,” says Steve Tennes. After he responded on the Farm’s Facebook page to a question regarding the family’s beliefs on marriage, City officials immediately began to pressure Country Hill Farms to not return to the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The Tennes’ continued to participate in the Market through the remainder of the year, but City officials moved to enact a new policy before the beginning of the 2017 market season – a policy aimed to keep Steve and Bridget Tennes from returning. Officials amended guidelines to demand all vendors comply with the city’s Human Relations Ordinance and so-called anti-discrimination policies… “while at the market and as a general business practice.”

As the only reason for the rejection of Country Mill Farms’ 2017 vendor application, the City included a copy of a Facebook post Steve Tennes made in December of 2016 explaining the family’s beliefs and stating that they would allow weddings that align with their deeply held religious beliefs at their family farm in Charlotte.

“This is a classic example of content discrimination,” said Rep. Gary Glenn at a Wednesday press conference with a number of state legislators which was held by the family’s attorneys and the Michigan Family Forum. By barring County Mill Farms from participating in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market based on the content of their constitutionally protected free speech, the City is violating the Tennes family’s 1st Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court on behalf of the Tennes family. Country Mill Farms vs. City of East Lansing will be a critical case in the continued battle for free speech and religious freedom that is happening right here in Michigan, and Citizens for Traditional Values is proud to stand with Steve and Bridget Tennes, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Michigan Family Forum, and many others in this fight.

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