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The Story of the Tennes Family and Country Mill Farms

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bonnie

http://www.adflegal.org/country-mill-farms-story

e kicked out of the market because of what they believe

 
 

The Story of the Tennes Family
and Country Mill Farms

For seven years, Country Mill Farms set up a booth at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market to sell their produce, offering the only stand with organic apples. The market was a significant part of Country Mill Farms’ growing business.

But then, without warning, Country Mill was asked to leave the market.

The reason? They communicated their religious viewpoint on marriage on their Facebook page — a belief that is apparently unwelcome in East Lansing.

They were banned from the market because of what they believe.
tennesfamily-landingpage-091417
Never before would I have ever thought that the faith we have here in our family, in our home, at our farm, would prohibit us from being able to participate in the community.” —Steve Tennes

Keep your beliefs to yourself, or face the consequences

Trouble started for the Tennes family when someone posted on Country Mill Farms’ Facebook page, asking about the family's beliefs about marriage. The Tennes family gave an honest answer.

As Catholics, they believe what the Bible says about marriage: it is a sacred union between one man and one woman. So, the Tennes family stated their beliefs. 

They never thought that a city 22 miles away would punish them for simply stating their beliefs. But that’s exactly what happened.

“All of a sudden I felt like we couldn’t even believe what we wanted to believe. We had to be quiet.”
— Bridget Tennes

Upon seeing the Tennes’ comment on Facebook, the City of East Lansing decided to ban Country Mill from its farmer’s market. The city created a new market policy and then claimed that by communicating their religious beliefs, the Tennes family was in violation of that new policy. 

But the truth is that the Constitution protects the Tennes family’s right to speak about their religious beliefs, without fear of government punishment — and certainly without fear of being targeted by a government 22 miles from their farm.
 

They defended freedom for all … now their freedom is threatened

Steve and Bridget Tennes are both U.S. military veterans, where they served to protect freedom for all Americans. Ironically, now they are finding their own freedom under attack — in the United States.

They strive to live their lives in a way that reflects Christ’s love and raise their five children according to their beliefs. Their faith guides the way that they operate their farm. It is central to their life.

horses-landingpage-091417
The mission here at our family farm, the Country Mill, is ‘To Glorify God by facilitating family fun on the farm, and feeding families.” —Steve Tennes

“Our family farm here is very personal to us,” says Steve. He was born the day after one of the apple orchards was planted. “One of the things we really enjoy about our family farm here is [that] we are able to raise our five children here at the farm in accordance with our faith.” 

The Tennes family has a mission for their farm that demonstrates how they live out their faith in their business: “To glorify God by facilitating family fun on the farm, and feeding families.”

Opportunities for family fun peak in the fall harvest season with activities like hay rides, a pumpkin patch, and a corn maze, just to name a few.

 
 

The Tennes family needs our help

The right to live out our faith and communicate our beliefs without fear of punishment should be a freedom that our government actively works to preserve, even if it disagrees with an individual's views.

That’s why the City of East Lansing's decision to kick Country Mill out of its farmer’s market is so outrageous, and why Alliance Defending Freedom took quick legal action on behalf of the Tennes family.

Just two days after hearing their request, a federal judge issued an order that allows Country Mill to return to the farmer's market while their civil rights lawsuit against East Lansing proceeds.

This is great news for the Tennes family. The East Lansing Farmer’s Market had provided a significant part of their business.

But this case is not over yet.

If city officials can take away a veteran's license to do business in the market simply because he dared express his religious beliefs on Facebook, then no American is truly free. 

Our government should be protecting our rights, not punishing us for exercising our freedom. And the government certainly should not be reaching outside its jurisdiction just to advance its political agenda.

“This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”
— Steve Tennes

The political winds of the government change every time we elect new representatives. The government may be punishing the Tennes family now for speaking about their biblical view of marriage, but it could punish any one of us for speaking a message it doesn’t like in the future.

Will you stand with the Tennes family, and with others who are being punished for their faith, to provide the strong legal defense they need?

Your gift today is also critical because the income we receive determines our ability to fight for you. We are trusting God for $2 million in gifts in the next 90 days. We want to be able to provide the strongest possible legal defense for Christians like the Tennes family who are — and will be — threatened for their faith.

 

 

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dgrimm60

BONNIE

IT is very sad that a person and not talk  about their religious beliefs with out being punished or criticized 

dgrimm60

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Gregory Matthews

I would like to see what they actually posted on Facebook.  But, I can not find it.  I do not mean to imply that they were not wronged.  It is just that I am interested and I can not find it.

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Gregory Matthews

I have found a number of websites that comment on this case, to include Facebook postings--thank you Bonnie for that.

Several of the websites seem to say that the reason they were banned from the Farmers Market was due to their refusal to allow homosexual couples to have their wedding o n their farm property.  This is an issue, yes.  But, it is a different issue from the allegation that the    issue was free speech.

What I do not know is:  Did the couple allow heterosexual couples to have their weddings on their farm property?  If they did and also refused to allow homosexual couples that is fundamentally a commerce/business issue, even though that may have been grounded in their religious beliefs.

If it is accurate that this was a business   issue, it can be debated as to whether or not it was fair, correct and in accord with the law.  But, one can not accurately discuss this until one knows that actual issue involved.

In short:  I would like more information before I formulated an opinion.

 

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Gregory Matthews

By the way, this case is about one year old.

What is the current situation?  What decisions have been made as to the litigation?

 

 

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bonnie
40 minutes ago, Gregory Matthews said:

By the way, this case is about one year old.

What is the current situation?  What decisions have been made as to the litigation?

 

I assumed that being farmers markets are a summer and fall occurrence and that this would have to be a year ago.

 

 

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bonnie
53 minutes ago, Gregory Matthews said:

I have found a number of websites that comment on this case, to include Facebook postings--thank you Bonnie for that.

Several of the websites seem to say that the reason they were banned from the Farmers Market was due to their refusal to allow homosexual couples to have their wedding o n their farm property.  This is an issue, yes.  But, it is a different issue from the allegation that the    issue was free speech.

What I do not know is:  Did the couple allow heterosexual couples to have their weddings on their farm property?  If they did and also refused to allow homosexual couples that is fundamentally a commerce/business issue, even though that may have been grounded in their religious beliefs.

If it is accurate that this was a business   issue, it can be debated as to whether or not it was fair, correct and in accord with the law.  But, one can not accurately discuss this until one knows that actual issue involved.

In short:  I would like more information before I formulated an opinion.

 

I don't know how it ended up. That really wasn't the issue.  

City officials later discovered the Facebook post and began immediate action to remove Country Mill from the farmers market, alleging a violation of the city’s discrimination ordinance.

On "The Story" tonight, Tennes, accompanied by his lawyer Kristen Waggoner, explained that the city changed the wording of the ordinance specifically to bar his farm.

This is if true....

 

So far I have not read anything that indicates that a gay couple attempted to book this farm for a gay wedding. A question was asked and answered.  A man stated his belief, is this a violation or discrimination before someone has asked and been turned down?

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Gregory Matthews

The following URL is the 42 page complaint that was filed on May 31, 2017 In the Southern  Division of the Western District of the United  States District Court.

http://www.adfmedia.org/files/CountryMillFarmsComplaint.pdf

The plaintiffs, Steve & Bridget Tennes allege that City of East Lansing violated their rights in eight (8) different ways, which generally involve their freedoms of speech and of their rights to publish their views (freedom of of the press).

Country Mill Farms (a farm of 120 acres) does more than grow and sell food products.  It's business activities involve activities open to the public on the farm property in a number of areas.  One of those areas includes renting out their buildings and property for people to have weddings.

In 2014. a lesbian couple requested information as to holding their wedding on the property of Country Mill Farms.  They were informed that their wedding would not be allowed. 

In 2016 that couple went public with their complaint against Country Mill Farms to include a complaint to the City of East Lansing and the inclusion of Country Mill Farms in the Farmers Market.

I am not impressed with the overall quality of this complaint.  However, I do believe that there is some basis for some issues that the plaintiffs have raised.  I think the Court might rule on those issues against the City of Lansing.

I plan to continue to search the records in an attempt to see    what the present standing is of this case and to report it here is I can find out what is happening.

In any case, Bonnie has brought to our attention an interesting case.

 

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Gregory Matthews

I have a Pacer account which I sometimes use to search for legal decisions.  I have located this litigation in the Pacer records.  Acting on an agreement reached between the plaintiffs and the defendants, on May 10, 2018 the Court issued an order that keeps much of the documents forever confidential and private.  At this point in time, I do not even know when (if) this case will go to trial.

It should be noted that in most cases the parties will attempt to reach an agreement without going to trial.  That is what I expect will happen.  However, in this case, an agreement may be problematic due to the question of who pays for the attorney fees that each party has incurred.  

We just may never know.

 

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Gregory Matthews

The following are examples as to how Country Mill Farms posts onthe Internet:

 

"Family Fun on the Farm" at the Lansing area's only cider mill where you can enjoy picking your own apples, peaches, blueberries and pumpkins. Sample our homemade wines in our winery's tasting bar. Experience our Orchard Express Train, Apple Cannon, Storybook hayride, petting zoo, corn maze, orchard tour, unique gift area & homemade goodies. Additionally, the Country Mill apple orchard offers the perfect location for your orchard wedding or special event. We offer flexibility in planning for your wedding and reception to make your day special. Celebrate your wedding outside in a park setting, then enjoy your reception in our Orchard Barn banquet hall that offers an apple orchard view. Your orchard wedding is sure to be remembered and cherished for a lifetime. Visit us at http://www.orchardwedding.com or email married@orchardwedding.com.

 

and

Quote

Our spacious barn offers the perfect location for your celebration.   You have the freedom to choose your own caterer, DJ, and other services.  With a modern kitchen, restrooms, and private changing room you can enjoy your special event with privacy.   Saturday barn rentals, are allowed the opportunity to decorate from 1-5pm on Friday.   

Email us for availability and contract.  Sorry no impromptu tours please use our inquiry form only.

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bonnie
22 hours ago, Gregory Matthews said:

 

What I do not know is:  Did the couple allow heterosexual couples to have their weddings on their farm property?  If they did and also refused to allow homosexual couples that is fundamentally a commerce/business issue, even though that may have been grounded in their religious beliefs.

If it is accurate that this was a business   issue, it can be debated as to whether or not it was fair, correct and in accord with the law.  But, one can not accurately discuss this until one knows that actual issue involved.

 

 

 
  • In 2016 that couple went public with their complaint against Country Mill Farms to include a complaint to the City of East Lansing and the inclusion of Country Mill Farms in the Farmers Market.  city changed the wording of the ordinance specifically to bar his farm.
  • This above is what I am curious about.  Barring from a farmers market because of what I sell or provide in a business by changing wording of a ordinance to bar his farm from the farmers market. As most of you know I sell inconinent products for variety of people.  I am asked repeatedly if I will do...., sometime politely other times very forcfully and with a underlying threat because I refuse to sell to certain groups. Most of what is asked for is what I already provide. CUSTOM REQUESTS.  I do this because of the age group and the mental challenges they deal with many times. When an adult male requests lace, ruffles and a tutu or waddle effect because he thinks it would help him to learn to become incontinent it is a flat out NO.  When a mother and grandmother want girlish items for their special needs son to see if he would be interested in transitioning I cannot say NO fast enough.  Yet I would provide similar where there is true need. So far I am not required by law to provide those requests when I do provide similar for others. Why not or maybe more to the point How Long Before I and others will be controlled to that degree?
  • Below is the discrimination policy taken from the online venue I use.
  •  
  • Race
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Any other characteristic protected under applicable law

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Gregory Matthews

To be clear, on my part:  As I read  the actual 42 page complaint, I do believe that the plaintiffs may have some grounds for what they allege.   I suspect that in the end, they will be allowed back into the Farmers Market.

I am disappointed at the privacy that has been extended to this litigation as agreed to by both sides.  I believe that there is value for the future, for the public to have full knowledge of what is happening to this litigation.

 

 

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