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Do you have a right to participate in the American marketplace, a right to feed your own family?
Some people say, “No.”
On Friday, a farming family in Michigan celebrated a small victory. Federal judge Paul L. Maloney granted a preliminary injunction barring the city of East Lansing from prohibiting the Tennes family of Country Hill Farm from participating in their annual Farmer’s Market. “On the evidence before this Court, the City amended its Vendor Guidelines and then used the changes to deny Country Mill’s vendor application. There exists a substantial likelihood that Plaintiffs will be able to prevail on the merits of their claims for speech retaliation and for free exercise of religion,” stated the judge.
The case has been summarized nicely by the Arizona Daily Independent:
At issue is an unconstitutional, unlawful, and complex policy that city officials adopted specifically to shut out Tennes and Country Mills Farms, his family’s fruit orchard, purely because he posted on Facebook his belief in biblical marriage. The city did this even though Tennes, his family, and the orchard are in Charlotte, 22 miles from East Lansing, well outside the city’s boundaries and beyond its jurisdiction.
After seeing Tennes’ Facebook post from August 2016, city officials took several actions to drive him out of the market. First, they told him they did not want Country Mill Farms at the next scheduled market, and they warned him that protests could occur if his farm continued to participate. Tennes, a military veteran, decided to continue to serve his customers at the market. No one protested. That did not change city officials’ resolve that Tennes could no longer participate in the market due to his statement of his religious beliefs.
For the first time in six years, when applications opened for the 2017 farmer’s market, the city did not invite Tennes to participate in the market. City officials also changed the application process for Country Mill Farms only, removing Tennes’ vendor application from the normal committee review process and reviewing it directly instead. Since Tennes and Country Mill Farms did not violate any law while at the market or in Charlotte, the officials crafted a new vendor policy that extended the city’s Human Relations Ordinance, bypassing jurisdictional limits under Michigan law, to expel Tennes from the market.
East Lansing’s Mayor, Mark Meadows, has maintained his stance against allowing Country Mills Farm the ability to participate in America’s economy via the selling of fruit at the Farmer’s Market within city limits, stating “They can say whatever they want, but their corporation needs to act in a certain way to qualify to sell products at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market on publicly owned land.” The mayor seems to have forgotten that observant Christians are taxpaying members of the American public and, as such, have equal access to publicly-owned land. Though it appears that the only criminal and unconstitutional act committed in this case was committed not by the Tennes family, but by the city officials of East Lansing, the city is still considering an appeal to block the judge’s injunction.
There is no social justice to be gained though depraved ostracization. Instead, one only finds anger, hate, and revenge… a sinister soup for the impotent and ignoble.
In the meantime, many will claim this small victory to be a win for religious freedom; others will claim it as a win for free speech rights. As a new report details, religious freedom has come under increasing attack in recent years, and free speech is, based on recent events, quite evidently no longer widely regarded as sacred. However, what this temporary injunction truly amounts to is a win for all of us in our efforts to feed our own families: a win for all Americans’ right to participate in the marketplace.
This win doesn’t come without a cost. While the Tennes family has finally been allowed to participate in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, the family has already missed approximately 3 ½ months of marketplace participation, with only 6 short weeks left before the season ends. There will no doubt be an economic toll on this family due to 3 ½ months of sitting on the side lines. Yet, some of the very people who extoll diversity and equality or some of the people who condemn poverty and hunger will remain opposed to the Tenneses’ ability to sell fruit- to feed and to provide for their family.
No, the Tennes family does not think “right.” For many of the very people lecturing the rest of America about tolerance, the Tenneses simply think “wrong.” They hold the “wrong” opinions, they speak the wrong words in the public forum, and they subscribe to the “wrong” faith. Therefore, this family and their business should be shunned from the economy, prohibited from making a living through participation in the marketplace, and, most of all, absolutely forbidden from pursuing the American Dream.
Constitutional rights? – Never heard of them.
Human rights? – You aren’t really human anyways.
For this very reason, the small victory in the case of the Tennes family is actually a large victory for us all. There is no nobleness to be found in depriving a family their right to earn a living. There is no honor to be found in petty vengeance. There is no justification for imposing poverty on a farming family in Michigan for “wrong think.” There is no social justice to be gained though depraved ostracization. Instead, one only finds anger, hate, and revenge… a sinister soup for the impotent and ignoble.
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” ~ Leviticus 19:18
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