The owners of Country Mill Farms in Michigan, who were banned from their local farmers market in 2016 over their biblical viewpoint on marriage, are having their case heard in a federal court this week.
Steve and Bridget Tennes operate their orchard in Charlotte, and they host weddings on their farm. The Christian family used to set up a booth at the East Lansing Farmer's Market to sell their produce, but officials decided to punish them because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) say city officials in East Lansing have been targeting the Tennes family after they made a comment about marriage in a Facebook post.
UPDATE: Trial begins for Michigan farmer targeted by city of East Lansing for religious beliefs
ADF attorneys represent Country Mill Farms
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@AllianceDefends) July 26, 2021
"All of a sudden I felt like we couldn't even believe what we wanted to believe. We had to be quiet," explained Bridget.
CBN News reported that the family fought back in 2017 and a federal judge issued a preliminary order forcing the city to allow the Tennes family to participate in the farmers market. The judge also said the city most likely violated their religious and free speech rights.
But East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows remarked that the temporary ruling only covered the 2017 market season. Meadows also said the city opposes the Tennes' "corporate decision-making," not their religious beliefs.
Yet city officials asserted that the Tennes' expression conflicted with East Lansing's marriage views and its new market policy.
The policy requires vendors to agree to comply with the city's "Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination while at the market and as a general business practice."
It's illegal for anyone to "make a statement which indicates that an individual's patronage or presence at a place of public accommodation is unwelcome or unacceptable because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression..." among other designated classes.
But the Tennes family says they plan to operate their farm the same way they live out their faith.
"Our family farm here is very personal to us," said Steve. "One of the things we really enjoy about our family farm here is (that) we are able to raise our five children here at the farm in accordance with our faith."
He added, "This isn't just about our ability to sell at the farmer's market. It's really about every American's right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government."
Steve and Bridget are military veterans and hope their case will help preserve the freedoms of other Americans.