Weddings & Religious Freedom
Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, October 13, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler
Who would’ve thought a little town would ostracize a local family business because of a Facebook post, but that happened to Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children. It seems the freedom of speech is limited in that neck-of-the-woods.
The Tenneses, who own a 120-acre farm in Charlotte, Michigan, were banned from selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, simply because they posted a message on Facebook to explain their policy about hosting marriages on their Country Mill farm.
In August 2016, in response to questions about services provided for the wedding venue on the family farm, they posted this on Facebook: “Due to our religious beliefs, we do not participate in the celebration of a same-sex union.” That statement reflects their Catholic faith.
For help they turned to the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyer explained, “East Lansing officials changed their market policy to shut out Steve because they don’t like his Catholic beliefs regarding marriage.” Although the Tenneses live 22 miles outside East Lansing, town officials decided to punish them for exercising their freedoms of speech and religious expression. That unconstitutional punishment (a) denied them the right to sell produce, (b) decreased their income, and (c) diminished their quality of life.
For three and one-half months, the couple was banned from selling organic apples and cider in the largest market available to them. In May, they filed a federal lawsuit against East Lansing, asking for an injunction that would allow them to return to the market while the case proceeds. Continue reading