A federal district court in Michigan ruled Monday a Catholic farmer can continue to sell at a farmer’s market after the city banned him over his religious beliefs.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division ruled the city of East Lansing forced Country Mills Farms owner Steve Tennes to “choose between following their religious beliefs and a government benefit for which they were otherwise qualified.”
Tennes, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the city of East Lansing in 2017 after he was denied a spot at the public farmer’s market because he wouldn’t host same-sex weddings on his property.
“Steve and his family-run Country Mill Farms happily serve all customers as a valued vendor at East Lansing’s farmer’s market, and he’s grateful he can continue his longtime partnership with the city and its residents,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, who argued before the court in July 2021 on behalf of Tennes and his farm. “The district court’s decision rightly protects Steve’s freedom to operate his business according to his convictions. Country Mill has continued to participate in the farmer’s market without issue during this litigation.”
City officials banned Tennes from the market for a Facebook he made about his Catholic beliefs about marriage, despite never receiving any complaints at the farmer’s market.
The Catholic farmer doesn’t even live in East Lansing. He lives in Charlotte, which is 22 miles outside the city’s boundaries and jurisdiction, according to ADF.
In its ruling in Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, wrote that Tennes and Country Mill Farms “
The court said the city violated Tennes’ free exercise rights by denying an “equal share of the rights, benefits, and privileges enjoyed by other citizens” due to faith.
Anderson said Tennes and Country Mill Farms are grateful for the court’s decision to protect religious liberty.
“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’” Anderson added.