It’s not always easy to see how an Alliance Defending Freedom case could impact you personally. But every once in a while, one hits close to home – and reminds you that these cases don’t just affect our clients. Your rights are at stake too.
As a writer, I often wonder what a loss in our cases defending creative professionals could mean for me. If the government can compel Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips to design a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding, what events could it force me to celebrate through my writing? If the government can compel Kentucky promotional printer Blaine Adamson to print certain messages on his shirts, what messages could it compel me to write?
Then there’s the lawsuit against Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where school officials were limiting free speech to a speech zone that made up only 0.02% of campus. I graduated from a college just a couple hours from Grand Valley, and our athletic teams often competed against each other. Thankfully, ADF won that case, but it was shocking to hear that a college rival was limiting its students’ constitutional rights so severely.
An ADF Ministry Friend had a similar experience when he heard about our case defending a Michigan farm family and their right to express their religious beliefs and live out their faith on their farm without being targeted by the government:
Part of the reason we started supporting ADF was the knowledge that ‘who knows, the person they need to help someday may be yourself.’ That hasn't happened yet, but as an East Lansing resident who lives half a mile from the farmer’s market, and who has visited The Country Mill on several occasions, I was somewhat shocked just how quickly an ADF case did hit very close to home.
Country Mill Farms is owned and operated by the Tennes family. At Country Mill, they grow apples, blueberries, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins. They also welcome the community to take part in events such as wagon rides, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, and cider and donuts.
The Tennes family’s faith informs everything they do, and they strive to run their farm in a way that is pleasing to God. That’s why, in response to a question on Facebook, they politely and honestly explained their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
After seeing the post, the city officials who run the East Lansing farmer’s market – where Country Mill attends as a vendor each year to sell fresh produce – tried to pressure Country Mill to stop attending the market, telling them that protestors might show up because of their beliefs about marriage. The Tennes family came to the market anyway, and no protestors greeted them.
So, the City of East Lansing took matters into its own hands. Instead of inviting County Mill to participate in the market the next year, as they had for the past six years, they tried to exclude the Tennes family by refusing to invite them back. When the Tennes family filled out an application, East Lansing officials informed them that Country Mill was in violation of a new policy – a policy that was created specifically to keep the Tennes family away from the farmer’s market.
There are several problems with East Lansing’s actions:
- The Tennes family has never discriminated against anyone. In fact, they want to attend the farmer’s market to sell their produce to everyone.
- Country Mill Farms is located 22 miles outside of East Lansing’s jurisdiction.
This demonstrates major overreach on East Lansing’s part. Not to mention that it shows East Lansing officials are truly the intolerant ones, pushing a family out of the farmer’s market simply for explaining their religious beliefs on Facebook.
Thankfully, a judge ruled that Country Mill can return to the farmer’s market and sell their produce while the case continues.
Religious freedom continues to come under attack, and we can be sure that there will be more challenges in the future. ADF is committed to defending our constitutional rights, whether those threats seem distant or hit a little too close to home.