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Heard on the news today as I was leaving town, and as reported by Daily Signal, this is a family-run orchard that I used to take my kids to in the fall to gather fruit and drink apple cider:
A farmers market and Facebook posts have opened a new front in courtroom battles over religious freedom.
It started when Steve Tennes, who owns a 120-acre farm in Charlotte, Michigan, expressed his traditional view about marriage on the farm’s Facebook page.
This drew a warning from an official more than 20 miles away in East Lansing, Michigan, that if Tennes tried to sell his fruit at the city’s farmers market, it could incite protests.
No one showed up to protest that August day last summer, though, and Tennes continued selling organic apples, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins at the seasonal market until October, as he had done the six previous years.
Nevertheless, East Lansing moved earlier this year to ban Tennes’ farm, the Country Mill, from participating in the farmers market when it resumes June 4. The city cited its human relations ordinance, an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.
So Tennes and his wife sued the city for religious discrimination.
As a Marine veteran who is married to an Army veteran, Tennes told The Daily Signal, this was consistent with his philosophy of defending freedom:
“My wife Bridget and I volunteered to serve our country in the military to protect freedom, and that is why we feel we have to fight for freedom now, whether it’s Muslims’, Jews’, or Christians’ right to believe and live out those beliefs.
“The government shouldn’t be treating some people worse than others because they have different thoughts and ideas.”
In 2014, the Tennes turned down a lesbian couple requesting the orchard for a marriage ceremony, but referred them to another orchard that accommodated them in 2015. They discontinued marriages at their orchard, but recently resumed as a wedding venue. The farm is 22 miles away from East Lansing, and the Tennes are suing because they fall outside the Jurisdiction of the city. It would be interesting to find out if the city routinely applies virtue testing to all vendors.