Steve Tennes owns and operates Country Mill Farms, an organic apple farm located 22 miles outside of East Lansing in Charlotte, Michigan. Since 2010, his farm has participated in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. While at the market, Country Mill has always complied with East Lansing laws, including its “Human Relations” law that makes it illegal for public accommodations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and other classifications and to publish any statement indicating someone is unacceptable because of these classifications.
As a Catholic taught to treat everyone with dignity and respect, Steve has gladly served and sold apples to all comers, regardless of their sexual orientation. Steve doesn’t discriminate. Okay, so what’s the problem then? Well, in 2016, Steve posted on the Country Mill Facebook page about his Catholic belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman and that his farm could only host weddings consistent with his faith.
Well, that did it. Normal rules go out the window when that subject comes up. Although his decision violated no law in Charlotte, it did violate East Lansing’s orthodoxy on that issue. After hearing about Steve’s beliefs, East Lansing officials expelled Steve, telling him that Country Mill could no longer participate in the Farmer’s Market. When Steve asked why, the officials responded that County Mill’s “general business practices” outside the city had violated East Lansing’s “anti-discrimination” law. As proof of his wrongdoing, officials pointed Steve to his Facebook post that explained his religious beliefs.