Catholic Family Fights for Freedom of Speech Over Gay Weddings on Their Farm

April 13, 2019 Updated: April 13, 2019

A Catholic family in Michigan headed to court Friday amid a three-year legal battle stemming from their decision not to host gay weddings on their farm.

Steve and Bridget Tennes are military veterans, the parents of six children, and the owners of the Michigan Country Mill Farm, according to The Washington Times. Controversy broke out when the farm responded to a Facebook question. The Tennes family articulated that their Catholic beliefs prevented them from hosting gay weddings on their farm, citing their “deeply held religious belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment right to express and act upon its beliefs.”

All Steve and Bridget Tennes want is to sell their apples, peaches and blueberries at a Michigan farmers’ market without…

Posted by The Washington Times on Thursday, April 11, 2019

Country Mill Farm was banned from selling their produce at East Lansing Farmers Market in 2017 for not following the city’s civil rights ordinances, according to The Washington Times. Steve Tennes sued East Lansing in 2017 and went to court Friday in Kalamazoo, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The case bears striking similarities to Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop case in which Phillips refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The case was resolved on June 4, when the Supreme Court ruled that a state agency does not apply an anti-discrimination law in a neutral manner.

Baker Jack Phillips
Baker Jack Phillips decorates a cake in his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, on Sep. 21, 2017. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

“In the Masterpiece case, the Supreme Court said unequivocally that when the government is hostile toward religion or religious believers, even when there’s a hint of hostility and animus, then that’s enough to invalidate government action,” said John Bursch, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom who represents the Tennes family.

“Here you have government officials from the mayor to the city manager to the City Council making repeated public remarks that the Catholic views on marriage are ‘ridiculous,’ they’re ‘absurd’ and they should be changed,” he said. “The record is full of statements like that.”

East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows not only wants the court to rule against the Tennes family, but he also wants the court to grant a permanent order that states the city did the right thing, according to The Washington Times.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with their religious beliefs,” Meadows said in a phone interview with the Lansing State Journal Thursday. “Country Mill is a corporation. It is not an individual. The last time I heard, it doesn’t have religious activities.”

But the Tennes family and the Alliance Defending Freedom believe this is “a paradigm of religious discrimination,” according to the Lansing State Journal.

The Tennes family did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

By Mary Margaret Olohan

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