A farm in Charlotte, Michigan has been banned from selling fruit at a farmer’s market in nearby East Lansing after uploading a homophobic Facebook post.
As well as growing apples, blueberries as peaches, the Country Mill also hosts wedding receptions—but made it very clear that same-sex couples were not welcome.
Stephen Tennes - the owner of the farm wrote - on the farm’s Facebook page at the end of last year: “It remains our deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment Right to express and act upon its beliefs.
“For this reason, Country Mill reserves the right to deny a request for services that would require it to communicate, engage in, or host expression that violates the owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs and conscience.
“Furthermore, it remains our religious belief that all people should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs or background.”
As a result, the East Lansing Farmer’s Market banned Country Mill from attending and selling their produce under a civil rights ordinance that prevents discrimination.
The market’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people who support the farm’s stance on gay marriage, calling it an attack on religious freedom.
One user wrote: “UNCONSTITUTIONAL RELIGIOUS BIGOTS! BOYCOTT!!!”
Tennes is now taking legal action, saying he has the right to express his religious beliefs: “Americans should not be treated worse by the government simply because the government does not like the thoughts and ideas that inspire and guide their lives,” he wrote on social media.
His attorney, Kate Anderson says: “If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook, then no American is free.”
However, the Mayor of East Lansing, Mark Meadows, says the issue is not about freedom of speech.
“This is about them operating a business that discriminates against LGBT individuals and that’s a whole different issue,” the mayor said.