A federal court has shot down a Michigan city’s ban of a local farmer from its farmer’s market because he espouses a Christian world view.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney ruled on Aug. 21 that the city of East Lansing cannot ban Country Mill Farms from its farmer’s market because its owner, Stephen Tennes, won’t allow gay couples to rent his property for gay weddings.
“The City has not established that the decision to deny CMF a vendor license is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest,” wrote Maloney, according to CBN.
He continued, “a policy that forces a person to choose between observing [their] religious beliefs and receiving a generally available government benefit for which [they are] otherwise qualified burdens [their] free exercise rights. The reason is simple: denying a person an equal share of the rights, benefits, and privileges enjoyed by other citizens because of [their] faith discourages religious activity.”
The Tennes family had set up a booth at the farmer’s market in 2017, but city officials were alerted to the gay wedding issue by left-wing activists and decided to ban the fam from participating in the public farmer’s market claiming that he was violating people’s freedom.
Naturally, the family maintained that it was their freedom that was being violated, not any gay couple’s.
In banning Tennes from the market, the City of East Lansing tried the novel, but wholly disingenuous, reasoning that they were opposing his “corporate decisions” not his religious beliefs.
East Lansing added that they required participants at the market to fully comply with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination while at the market and as a general business practice.”
That policy is likely unconstitutional, too.
Regardless, the Tennes family hired the Alliance Defending Freedom to represent them in a lawsuit against the anti-Christian city.
“Tennes and Country Mill Farms are grateful for the court’s decision protecting religious liberty,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “At the same time, they are eager to mend fences with current city officials and get back to doing what Country Mill does best—as expressed in its mission statement: ‘glorifying God by facilitating family fun on the farm and feeding families.'”