A US farmer who wrote on his company’s Facebook page that marriage “is the union of one man and one woman” has been banned by officials from the city’s farmers’ market.
Steve Tennes owns the Country Mill farm and has been selling his products at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market in Michigan for seven years.
He has now been told that his Facebook post was a violation of a city ordinance against discrimination and he is no longer welcome at the market.
Tennes, a Roman Catholic, said his family were ‘surprised and shocked’ to receive a letter from city officials informing them of the ban.
“Whether you are a Jew, Muslim or Christian – people of faith should not be eradicated from the marketplace simply because they don’t share the same thoughts and ideas that the government is choosing to promote”, he added.
Tennes and his wife have now filed a lawsuit against the city for religious discrimination.
People of faith should not be eradicated from the marketplace simply because they don’t share the same thoughts and ideas that the government is choosing to promote
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), are representing him in his case.
“All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him”, said Kate Anderson, ADF Legal Counsel.
She added: “If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free”.
In 2014, the Country Mill farm declined a request to host a wedding ceremony for two lesbians.
One of the women then wrote a Facebook post discouraging other customers from giving business to the farm.
In response, the farm briefly ceased holding events before announcing on Facebook last year that it would resume hosting wedding ceremonies.
It said: “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.”
In the UK, The Christian Institute backed a housing manager during his legal battle in 2012.
Adrian Smith’s freedom of conscience was upheld when the High Court ruled that he had been unlawfully treated when he was demoted at work and given a 40 per cent pay cut for posting a comment on his personal Facebook page saying same-sex weddings in church would be “an equality too far”.
Smith said afterwards: “It was a victory for freedom of speech, and it shows that an individual can make a difference if he is willing to take a stand.”