County Government Tries to Punish MI Farmer for Religious Beliefs

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The latest case of progressives trying to shut down those they disagree with comes out of south-central Michigan. Steve Tannes lives and operates a 120 acre farm in Charlotte, Michigan. For years, he has made it a practice to take his fruit crops to a farmers market in East Lansing, a town about twenty miles away.

Buying and selling of goods and services is supposed to be just that. Personal politics and opinions of a religious nature shouldn’t be a cause for the government to punish an individual or a business. But that’s exactly what government officials of the town of East Lansing did to Steve, who brings the produce from his orchard, The Country Mill, and sells it at a farmers market in East Lansing. He also would use his property as a wedding venue.

In 2014, Steve was approached by a gay couple about the possibility of doing their wedding on his property. Steve explained that he wasn’t comfortable with that because of his religious beliefs. Steve recommended that they try another farm in the area. They did, and the couple’s wedding ceremony was held in 2015. However, one of the women later wrote a Facebook post loudly denouncing Steve for denying them a wedding ceremony at his orchard.

Steve responded to her denunciation in a statement of his own, according to the Daily Signal:

“The Country Mill family and its staff have and will continue to participate in hosting the ceremonies held at our orchard. It remains our deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment right to express and act upon its beliefs. For this reason, Country Mill reserves the right to deny a request for services that would require it to communicate, engage in, or host expression that violates the owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs and conscience….We appreciate the tolerance offered to us specifically regarding our participation in hosting weddings at our family farm.”

This made the city officials of East Lansing rather upset. So they decided to ban Steve from being able to bring his produce to the East Lansing farmer’s market. Now, keep in mind that Steve is not even from East Lansing! His orchard is in Charlotte, Michigan. The city officials also said that if Steve attempted to bring his produce to the farmer’s market it would “incite protests.”

Mayor Mark Meadows told the Lansing State Journal that the decision to ban Steve from the farmer’s market was a direct result of farm’s “business decision” to not host same-sex weddings.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal aid organization, is representing the Tenneses.

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