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.
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.
“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 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.
You can further the impact of a $500,000 challenge grant
A generous Christian family has given a $500,000 challenge grant to help provide a strong legal defense for the Tennes family and other Christians like them. Your gift today will strengthen the impact of this challenge.
Alliance Defending Freedom has established a strong record of success in defending your religious freedom. But your help is critically needed now. Because, for the Tennes family and many others, the fight is not over.
God has shown us time and time again that when we stand together to protect religious freedom, we can be victorious. But protecting religious freedom isn’t “someone else’s fight.” It’s your fight. It’s our fight.
About Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
ADF was launched in 1994 by 35 ministry leaders, including Dr. James Dobson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. Bill Bright, and Larry Burkett.
With God’s blessing, ADF has grown from the prayers of those godly leaders to become a major force in the legal battle for religious freedom, winning nearly 80% of our cases, including 11 victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since 2011.