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Federal judge hears arguments in Michigan religious freedom case

Battle over religious liberty.PNG
Federal judge hears arguments in Michigan religious freedom case. (WLNS/File)

Attorneys for the city of East Lansing were in federal court in Kalamazoo on Friday to defend their actions against a man who said he was target for his religious beliefs.

Charlotte farmer Steve Tennes was temporarily banned from the farmers market in East Lansing in 2017 for saying he would not host gay weddings on his Eaton County farm. He claims the city violated his religious freedom.

"I think it's important for Americans when they feel like they're being treated differently by the government simply because they've spoken about their beliefs it's important to stand up, not just for yourself and the people that may agree with you, but those people that may have a different belief that you,” Tennes said.

He said after a Facebook post stating he would not host gay weddings on his family’s farm, East Lansing city leaders asked him to stop coming to their farmers market.

Attorneys for the City of East Lansing said his religion has nothing to do his ban from the farmers market.

East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said, “It doesn’t have anything to do with their religion. They’re free to do whatever they like. It’s a business operation, a business practice that is offensive to our ordinance and this is why we continue to defend this case.”

Kate Anderson, an attorney for Tennes, said his business serves anyone and everyone regardless of their background despite being actively engaged in a federal lawsuit over what they claim is their right to deny gay weddings on their farm.

"They talked about referencing the bible, they said it was his Catholic views that got him into trouble. They were around talking about his beliefs when this case was going on, when they were excluding him from the market, so it was always about that," Anderson said.

Federal Judge Paul Maloney heard arguments from Tennes' team and an attorney from the City of East Lansing on Friday, and said he'll now take his time before issuing his written opinion on whether the city should be required to allow Tennes to participate in the city's farmers market.

Tennes has been allowed to participate in the farmers market after a preliminary injunction was granted by the federal court.

"We're really hopeful that the judge in this case will make permanent the temporary ruling that was already placed 18 months ago and allow our family to continue to believe and speak freely about our beliefs at our home in Charlotte," Tennes said.