Banned pro-marriage farmer allowed to return to market

A farmer who was banned from selling products at a local US market for stating his views on marriage has been allowed to recommence trading.

Steve Tennes had been excluded after writing on his company’s Facebook page that he believes marriage “is the union of one man and one woman”.

Tennes, who owns the Country Mill farm, was told by East Lansing Farmer’s Market in Michigan that his Facebook post was a violation of a city ordinance against discrimination.

Religious discrimination

Tennes then filed a lawsuit against the city for religious discrimination.

District Judge Paul L. Maloney has now ruled that his legal team “established a substantial likelihood” that a ban against Tennes violated his “freedom from speech retaliation” and “free exercise of religion”.

His case is continuing, but the judge’s preliminary injunction has allowed him to return to the market.

Freedom of speech

Tennes, a Roman Catholic, is being represented by religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

“Just like all Americans, a farmer should be free to live and speak according to his deeply held religious beliefs without fear of government punishment”, said Kate Anderson, ADF Legal Counsel.

She added: “The court was right to issue this order, which will allow Steve to return to the 2017 farmer’s market while his case moves forward.”

Christian baker

Earlier this month, a Christian baker received major support in an ongoing legal battle with big implications for religious liberty and free speech.

In 2012, Jack Phillips declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Phillips – who has run Masterpiece Cakeshop for over 20 years – is set to have his case heard by the US Supreme Court next month.

He has now received formal backing from the US Justice Department, which stepped in to file a court brief on his behalf.

Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall wrote: “Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”

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