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Court: City Cannot Keep Catholic Farmer Opposed to Gay Marriage Out of Farmer’s Market

Court: City Cannot Keep Catholic Farmer Opposed to Gay Marriage Out of Farmer’s Market

“The City’s decision to exclude Country Mill Farms from the 2017 East Lansing Farmer’s Market constituted a burden on Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.”

A federal judge in Michigan ruled in favor of a Catholic farmer who rents out space for farm weddings but refused to accommodate gay weddings. Country Mill Farms instead referred gay couples “to another mid-Michigan orchard that has more experience hosting same sex weddings.”

When East Lansing discovered the Country Mill Farms’ policy, the city refused the orchard a vendor spot at the local farmer’s market, citing a city anti-discrimination ordinance incorporated into the vendor agreement.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Country Mill Farms and praised the decision. “The district court’s decision rightly protects Steve’s freedom to operate his business according to his convictions,” ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson said in a press release.

The judge’s decision relied heavily on the landmark Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In Fulton, the Supreme Court held Philadelphia could not refuse to contract with a Catholic foster care agency, Catholic Social Services (CSS), that refused to certify gay couples as foster parents.

CSS refused to certify gay couples because it “believes marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” Philadelphia cited an anti-discrimination clause in the foster care agency contract as the basis for refusing to contract with CSS.

The Michigan federal court explained how a law “incidentally burden[ing] religion” is normally constitutional, provided the law is “neutral and generally applicable.” However, if the law is not “neutral and generally applicable,” courts apply a heightened standard of scrutiny to determine constitutionality.

Country Mill Farms challenged East Lansing’s decision as a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, arguing that the city applied a “policy not generally applicable . . . because the policy contained [a] system of individualized exemptions.” (citations omitted)

Because East Lansing’s policy was “not generally applicable,” the city had to show the application of its policy against Country Mill Farms furthered “a compelling interest” and that the policy was “narrowly tailored” to achieving that interest. East Lansing, the court found, did not meet that burden.

East Lansing argued it had a compelling interest in enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance “to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” The court rejected this argument, finding the “individualized exemptions” in East Lansing’s vendor policy allowed the city to make exemptions for other providers.

East Lansing, then, needed to show a “particular justification for enforcing the nondiscrimination ordinance against” Country Mill Farms, which the court found the city had not.


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Geez. If you don’t like the guy just don’t buy his crap… It’s not that f*cking hard.

    navyvet in reply to Ironclaw. | September 3, 2023 at 10:30 am

    No, you must surrender all your values to the politically correct classes and their enabler, the state. Your objections to policy are neither encouraged or permitted.

    Translation: “Shut up and obey!”

Ah but the farmer failed to conform to the established belief of the city government. The people shall believe or at least keep their opposition to themselves and conform. This is the way to run an illiberal democracy but not the way to run our Republic..

It’s the left’s cancellation agenda. Maybe the IRS and DOJ will be the next gov’t agencies conducting enforcement against these domestic terrorists.

Make no mistake the left is coming for us all.

Now, the city will re-write the ordinance in a way they hope is “generally applicable” and it will all have to go to court again. It may take another 10 or 20 years to get a ruling in favor of freedom. Meanwhile, the city’s blatant bigotry will continue.

    henrybowman in reply to irv. | September 3, 2023 at 4:35 pm

    I read the ruling to see some examples of the types of exceptions already allowed in the ordinance. What I found: “The Commissioner has sole discretion to grant an exemption.”
    Oh, I see! Why depend on some messy “rule of law” approach, when you can just appoint a King!

Any so-called Catholic farmers who acceded to hosting gay weddings are guilty of heterodoxy.

Not a lawyer, so I have a hard time understanding why you can deny services because of religious beliefs but have to serve food to individuals you don’t want to?

I mean some people really believe that certain races are demonic or what have you yet they must serve?

    Dathurtz in reply to gonzotx. | September 3, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    Idea of protected classes in nondescrimination legislation.

    henrybowman in reply to gonzotx. | September 3, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    Some of the discrepancy (e.g., Masterpiece Bake Shop, until very recently) is due to conflicting rulings among states or districts, and no overall SCOTUS reconciliation.

    The older stuff (e.g., Lester Maddox) occurred because of the Court’s disastrous rulings in the Slaughterhouse Cases and several subsequent, rulings that divorced a person’s personal constitutional rights from his economic rights (his rights while engaging in commerce).

    Multiple Democrat administrations then ran with this ball and ended up establishing the “principle” that if you run a business open to the general public, you cannot pick and choose your clients arbitrarily as guaranteed by freedom of association, and the federal government assumes the power to tell who you may and must serve..

      NO. In half the country, no business has been allowed to pick and choose their clients arbitrarily as guaranteed by freedom of association since the Jim Crow era began in the 1890’s. That wasn’t a federal law – although the feds allowed the states to break the Constitution.

      In the 1890’s, southern states were essentially single-party Democrat, and passed laws that _required_ businesses to discriminate or segregate their customers. For example, In Plessy v. Ferguson, the railroad did not want to run separate black and white cars, let alone turn away paying customers because one set of cars was full while there was lots of room in the cars for the other color – but that’s what the state law required.

      Restaurants were not allowed to serve blacks and whites in the same room, so in most cases they would only serve whites, or would serve whites inside and sell meals to blacks out the back door. Hotels had to pick one race to rent their rooms to. In many towns, blacks traveling on business had to make arrangements to stay in some black family’s home, or have nowhere to sleep or eat

      If there were schools for blacks at all, they got the oldest buildings, the worn out furniture and books, and the least skilled teachers.

      In the 1950’s, the federal courts began to recognize such laws and policies as violations of the 14th Amendment, but were unable to correct the _habits_ of discrimination that had formed. Ten years after the Supreme Court ruled against “separate but (un)equal” schools in Brown v. Board of Education , a few schools had been desegregated under direct court orders enforced by the National Guard, but blacks were still blocked from voting in many areas, most of the schools were still segregated, Jim Crow laws were still on the books, and black travelers generally could not find a hotel or restaurant in the South. An alliance of Republicans and northern Democrats in Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned discriminatory state laws and required even private businesses to treat blacks and whites equally.

      The parts of the CRA covering private businesses encroaches on 1st Amendment freedom of association, but it was necessary at the time, otherwise businesses in many areas would have been too afraid of a$%^&ole whites who thought they were _entitled_ to white-only shops and sections on the bus to end discrimination when the laws that required it were overturned. But it should have had an ending date.

Still and again and again, my broken record: If you or I had egregiously and aggressively impeded, threatened, denied, or detained any Muslim, Jew, Sikh, etc., in order to prevent their entry into a public space based upon their religious beliefs, the state AG or fed DOJ would see us in prison, or bankrupted, or both, for ‘hate’ crimes against these religious people.

So, who in East Lansing, MI city hall will go to prison for this ‘hate’ crime of egregious and aggressive denial of entry into a public space based upon Catholic religious beliefs? NO ONE. Because politicians won a popularity contest, and have the ruling class privilege to violate one or millions of citizens’ civil rights with impunity. And the ruling class will do it again and again because no politician is EVUH criminally punished accordingly. Unless or until they are criminally punished, it’s all just **clown world**

Discrimination is a synonym for intelligence. Homosexuals and other sexual deviants should be discriminated against, because their behavior is detrimental to the country. Or haven’t you noticed?

The Constitution trumps a clause in a contract?


Can you imagine a public official even bothering with this stuff, or a court having to listen to something so obvious?

    bill54 in reply to puhiawa. | September 4, 2023 at 9:31 am

    Virtue signaling has been around for millenia. Goes back the the Garden of Eden when “It’s not my fault” became part of human nature.

Let us note that it took six years to resolve this. As some here predict, the city will modify the code — slightly — and challenge the plaintiffs to go back to court, where another six years shall pass.

Publish the names of the city officials who tried to infringe on the farmer’s civil rights.

    Make them – the officials, not the taxpayers – pay the farmer $5,000 a day for every day they infringed his civil rights. Bar them from public office, working for the government in any public or private capacity, or participating in political campaigns until they’ve paid in full.

    But holding other government officials responsible for their malfeasance is what our judges DON’T do.

Just happy to see that someone actually fought City Hall and won.