“Attorneys for a Michigan fruit farmer argued in federal court that officials had unconstitutionally targeted him for his religious beliefs and banned him from a local farmers’ market.
On April 12, attorneys from the non-profit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) went before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, to request that the city of East Lansing permanently lift its ban that has prohibited farmer Steve Tennes from selling his produce at the local farmers’ market. Authorities in East Lansing, which is home to Michigan State University, banned Tennes and his Country Mill Farms of rural Charlotte, Michigan, specifically because he adheres to the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding marriage when hosting weddings at his family farm venue.
According to the attorneys, Tennes was persecuted for his sincerely held religious beliefs, which an East Lansing city council member called ‘ridiculous, horrible, [and] hateful.’ The council then exiled him from the marketplace until the federal court issued a preliminary order in 2017 that allowed Tennes a temporary return. The East Lansing mayor denounced Tennes, who does not reside in that city, for putting his ‘Catholic view on marriage’ into practice. Other city officials likened Catholic teachings about marriage to those defending racist Jim Crow laws of the South following the Civil War. According to ADF, the city’s position was that it would expel Country Mill Farms until it successfully changed the Catholic beliefs of Tennes and his family.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, ADF senior counsel Kate Anderson said federal judge Paul L. Maloney took depositions from ADF and the city of East Lansing. Attorneys for the city called for a dismissal of the case, while ADF sought a permanent resolution that would allow Tennes to sell his produce at the market. She expressed the hope that the judge will issue a ruling in favor of her client within the next few weeks. Anderson also noted that it was the same judge who issued a 2017 ruling that temporarily suspended the city’s ban on Tennes. New evidence of official prejudice against Tennes, Anderson said, was presented at the April 12 hearing.”