Christian farmer’s lawsuit against City of East Lansing will go to trial

Steve Tennes, the owner of Country Mill Orchard, and his wife, Bridget Murphy Tennes, pose for a picture on Sept. 27 at Country Mill Orchard in Charlotte, Michigan. Steve Tennes and Country Mill Orchard returned to the East Lansing Farmers Market on Sept. 24, after a federal judge ruled in his favor. — Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

Country Mills Farms’ religious freedom lawsuit against the City of East Lansing is set to take place on Sept. 14 at the Western District of Michigan.

Predicted to take four days, the trial is the result of the city excluding the business from its farmer’s market because of its announced unwillingness to host gay weddings.

That’s right: East Lansing’s punishment for “excluding” people is to exclude people, in this case threatening their livelihood. Any homosexual couples looking for a farm wedding venue would be inconvenienced, at the very worst, and have to look elsewhere.

In 2016 Steve Tennes, owner of Country Mills Farm, reportedly stated on Facebook his belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. According to Mayor Ruth Beier, who was Mayor Pro Tem at the time, Tennes stated that weddings for same-sex couples at the orchard were off limits.

East Lansing responded that the farm was violating the city’s “long-standing ordinance that protects sexual orientation” and could no longer sell fruit at the market.

Tennes filed a motion to appeal the refusal to vend in 2017, which was approved in September of that year, and Country Mills Farm was allowed to stay at the city’s farmers market for the remainder of the produce season.

In an interview in September, former Mayor of East Lansing Mark Meadows said he felt the community agreed with him that the farm should lose its livelihood for sending gay couples elsewhere to be married.

“I think we are committed as a community to inclusion and protecting everybody from discrimination,” Meadows said, even as he supported discrimination against the orchard.


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