Catholic farm family fights Michigan city to stay OUT of gay-wedding business

A city in Michigan is punishing a Catholic farm family because they refuse to allow gay weddings.

The short of it is that this Catholic family was denied entry into the farmers market in East Lansing back in 2016 after the city found out that the Tenneses don’t allow gay marriages on their farm. They had previously been a part of the farmers market for the past 7 years.

Now they are fighting it out in court and hope that the recent victory by Colorado baker Jack Phillips will help them.

Here’s more from the Washington Times:

All Steve and Bridget Tennes want is to sell their apples, peaches and blueberries at a Michigan farmers market without being required to get into the same-sex wedding business, and they are hoping for an assist from Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

The Tenneses, who make their home on the Country Mill Farm with their six children, contend that their Catholic faith has been maligned by East Lansing officials who have sought to bar them from the city’s farmers market over their refusal to host same-sex ceremonies on their property.

That is where Mr. Phillips comes in. It was government animus — in that case, the state of Colorado — toward the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner that swung the Supreme Court’s decision last year in his favor after he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. If anything, the hostility displayed by East Lansing officials is worse, said John Bursch, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

“In the Masterpiece case, the Supreme Court said unequivocally that when the government is hostile toward religion or religious believers, even when there’s a hint of hostility and animus, then that’s enough to invalidate government action,” said Mr. Bursch, who represents the Michigan farmers.

“Here you have government officials from the mayor to the city manager to the City Council making repeated public remarks that the Catholic views on marriage are ‘ridiculous,’ they’re ‘absurd’ and they should be changed,” he said. “The record is full of statements like that.”

The 3-year-old fight goes before a federal judge Friday in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with Mr. Tennes seeking a permanent order prohibiting the liberal college town from blocking the family’s participation in the popular farmers market.

Of course the mayor claims this has nothing to do with their religious beliefs and rejects the idea that this is religious discrimination.

Here’s the backstory:

The conflict began in 2016 when Country Mill Farm responded to a question on Facebook by saying that the owners did not host same-sex weddings. They cited their “deeply held religious belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment right to express and act upon its beliefs.”

Country Mill was invited to the farmers market for seven years, until the city learned of the social media post. Staff reacted by adding a provision to its vendor guidelines stressing compliance with the East Lansing civil rights ordinance. When the farm applied in 2017, its application was rejected.

Mr. Tennes took the city to court and won a temporary injunction on behalf of Country Mill, which is located in Charlotte, about 22 miles from East Lansing.

Steve and Bridget Tennes are military veterans who “volunteered to serve our country and defend the rights that we have here such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” he said.

“So it was kind of a shock to have the city government tell us that simply stating our beliefs about marriage on Facebook, 22 miles outside of the city of East Lansing, was enough to get our family barred from the city park where we have been serving everyone without complaint for seven years in a row,” Mr. Tennes said.

Mr. Tennes, a second-generation farmer, and his family live on the 158-acre farm, which includes an orchard, pumpkin patch and cider brewery. They host special events such as weddings, birthday parties, retirement parties, school tours, corn mazes, hay rides and apple-picking days for charity.

Not everything is permitted. “As Christians, there are events on our farm that we’re not able to host, such as bachelor parties, bachelorette parties and, as a family, we decided not to participate in celebrating haunted house attractions,” he said.

I highlighted the fact that they’ve already won an injunction to make sure you saw that. The head to federal court tomorrow seeking a permanent injunction.

The mayor, who says this isn’t about their Catholic faith, claims that the Tennes must host gay weddings on their property or get out of the wedding business completely if they want to continue coming to the farmers market:

Mr. Meadows said the farm would be in compliance as long as it hosted both traditional and same-sex marriages — or neither — and that the family and the farm aren’t the same entity, given that Country Mill is a corporation.

“They have a corporation that decided that as a matter of policy, it wasn’t going to allow corporate property for same-sex marriages,” Mr. Meadows said. “That would be a violation of our ordinance. Since they’re renting space on public property, we didn’t think that it was appropriate to rent space to someone who had a business that obviously discriminated against LGBTQ individuals.”

This mayor is off his rocker. Despite what he says, this is absolutely a case or religious discrimination because their Christian faith is the REASON they refuse to host gay weddings. It’s really that simple and for him to deny it is preposterous.

Hopefully the victory by Phillips will aid the Tennes when they go to court tomorrow. But you never know with so many liberal judges out there. This could be another case that ends up going all the way to the supreme court.

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