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Selling blueberries as a countercultural act

A new case of leftist totalitarianism bears watching. The city of East Lansing, Michigan, gerrymandered a sexual orientation discrimination ordinance specifically for purposes of banning a farmer from a farmer's market in East Lansing, even though his farm is not located in East Lansing and even though his real or hypothetical acts of discrimination--refusing to host same-sex "weddings" on his farm--would take place in Charlotte, a different town.

In August, 2016, farmer Steve Tennes stated on Facebook that he would not host a lesbian "wedding" at the farm (though he does sometimes rent the farm for weddings) and affirmed his view that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The city of East Lansing immediately began attempting to pressure him not to show up again to sell fruit at the farmer's market in the city. When he would not back down, they altered their city policy to ban him. ADF Legal explains.

When Tennes posted something online about his beliefs again in December 2016, after the close of the market season, the officials decided that his expression conflicted with East Lansing’s marriage views and its policy regarding sexual orientation. But because that policy is codified in the city’s Human Relations Ordinance, which cannot be enforced against Country Mill Farms, the officials crafted a new policy, bypassing its jurisdictional limits under Michigan law, to expel Tennes and his farm from the farmer’s market as punishment for his views.

The policy requires vendors to agree to and comply with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance and its public policy against discrimination…while at the market and as a general business practice.” The ordinance makes it illegal for anyone to “make a statement which indicates that an individual’s patronage or presence at a place of public accommodation… is…unwelcome or unacceptable because of...sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression…,” among other designated classes. Yet it does not define “discriminate” or any of the key terms that would govern enforcement.

Based on the new policy, and in response to Country Mill Farms application for the 2017 farmer’s market, an official informed Steve by letter that he was not in compliance and that, therefore, the city was prohibiting him from participating.

Obviously, it's the "as a general business practice" clause that is being used. East Lansing wants to expand its jurisdiction to all the business practices of any business that operates ever within the city limits, so that East Lansing can control their actions with regard to business practices and activities (such as hosting weddings) that take place outside of the city's limits. To be clear, there is no claim whatsoever that Steve Tennes has discriminated against anybody in selling fruit in the farmer's market in East Lansing.

The city claims, falsely, that they are banning Tennes under "long-standing policy" and in compliance (somehow or other) with the Obergefell SCOTUS decision:

In a statement, the city of East Lansing said the farmer’s refusal to host a same-sex wedding violated a “long-standing ordinance that protects sexual orientation as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling that grants the right for same-sex couples to be married.”

But if that were the case, why did the city have to amend its policy after Tennes kept selling at the farmer's market, after his initial statement on Facebook that he wouldn't host a same-sex "wedding" on his Charlotte farm? They banned him only after they inserted the "as a general business practice" clause into their ordinances.

ADF cannily points out that Michigan law (the Home Rule City Act) forbids one city's attempting to expand its jurisdiction beyond its own boundaries.

By this time comments about the intolerance of the left are cliche. With the audience of this post, I can take them as read, though it is a bit of a shock when one encounters lefties elsewhere who still babble on about how they are just seeking tolerance. Or Christians who have had their heads in the sand and seem utterly unaware of what the homosexual lobby really wants.

The sobering fact here is that the left will brook no dissent and will do everything in its power to control your speech, your thoughts, and your practices to force you to affirm homosexuality (and now transgenderism) in every corner of your life. In a sense, talk about an "option" to set up enclaves or our own communities and institutions, etc., is a bit behind the times. Steve Tennes has a farm in Charlotte, Michigan, which makes no attempt to force him to affirm homosexual "marriage." He might seem to be carrying out the advice of setting up our own businesses in our own places, etc. But to keep his farm going, he needs to be able to do business in places other than Charlotte. One of these is the larger nearby town of East Lansing, twenty-two miles away. East Lansing, like some kind of sociopolitical amoeba, is sending its regulatory pseudopods outward to Charlotte and trying to control the practices (and the every word on Facebook) of a farmer in Charlotte who comes to East Lansing's farmer's market to sell his fruit. Who, twenty years ago, could have predicted this degree of malice and this type of legal hounding? And how many people are in any position to make themselves so independent of the legal machinations of various levels of government (not to mention private businesses who insist on lockstep ideological agreement with homosexuality) that nothing similar could happen to them?

Increasingly, there is nowhere to go away and carry out our lives in peace. We should admire Steve Tennes for recognizing the moment to stand and fight instead. We should thank God for ADF Legal that is helping him to do so. (Here's their donate button.) And we should realize that, in all probability, it's now a matter of "when" and not "if" the time of persecution for each of us individually will come.

Comments (11)

Is this a sneak preview of what will become even more common if Jack Phillips loses?

To explain, it seems there are basically two views of Obergefell. One, that it is strictly limited to requiring state governments to issue "marriage licenses" to two people of the same sex. The other, that it establishes a broader mandate that homosexual relationships must be spoken of and treated in the public square with the same regard as real marriages. I think it is clear which side East Lansing is siding with, and I think the Masterpiece Cake case may tell us which side the Supreme Court is going to fall on.

I wonder if Steve Tennes can claim that in his farming business, he complies with the stupid ordinance. It is his "wedding hosting business" that does not. Since he is not in East Lansing in virtue of wedding hosting, but in virtue of farming, they can't touch him. (Unless he runs his farming business by refusing to countenance the "weddings" of gays.)

I doubt that East Lansing thinks that works. But the funny thing is that there is a chance they are wrong. To the extent that the terms of such a law can be enforced (assuming that it is an enforceable law at all, that is), I suspect that it can only be upheld with respect to the business activity which he engages in at East Lansing. One doesn't host a wedding with a plow, a harvestor, a sprayer, etc. One doesn't farm with tables and chairs, decorative lights, a dance floor, and a sound system. They are different business activities (even if he doesn't choose to legally separate them.)

The policy requires vendors to agree to and comply with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance

It also seems worrisome that any even half-way decent court would uphold the "agree to" aspect of that. Are we now at the position of regulating thought as such.

I'm guessing the farming and wedding hosting are both done under the auspices of the same single proprietorship business. ADF Legal mentions only one name, Country Mill Farms.

Given ADF's interpretation of the Home Rule City Act, it seems they *cannot* regulate his wedding hosting activities (nor, I would guess, his hiring practices, though that hasn't come up in this case), since those take place outside of the jurisdiction in question. If this interpretation of Michigan state law is correct, the entire attempt to control "general business practices" of businesses located outside of East Lansing should be declared illegal. East Lansing can only regulate actual activities within the city or businesses whose regular nexus (business address, etc.) is within the city, not twenty-two miles away.

If the Tennes can just legally split their wedding business from their farm business and by doing so qualify to participate in the East Lansing farmers market, that sounds like a loophole that East Lansing would quickly close.

Is it legally clear cut that what East Lansing is doing counts as regulating the Tennes farm?

"And how many people are in any position to make themselves so independent of the legal machinations of various levels of government (not to mention private businesses who insist on lockstep ideological agreement with homosexuality) that nothing similar could happen to them?"

Speaking of, I briefly got involved in an ISO initiative at work. If I understand it correctly, at some level ISO requires ISO certified companies to only use other ISO certified companies as suppliers. ISO also has a clause covering workplace discrimination, so companies that discriminate according to that clauses definition cannot be ISO certified. This policy seems easily used to enforce ideological agreement.

DR84, isn't "ISO certified" a reference to a specific ISO number (or set of them)? Like ISO 9001. I don't think anyone claims they are "ISO certified" with respect to every single ISO standard, there are 21,000 of them. It would cost billions to get certified on all of them.

They might be referring to ISO 26000, but here's what ISO says about it:

ISO 26000:2010 provides guidance rather than requirements, so it cannot be certified to unlike some other well-known ISO standards. Instead, it helps clarify what social responsibility is, helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices relating to social responsibility, globally. It is aimed at all types of organizations regardless of their activity, size or location.

I don't know anything about the system, so I might be wrong, but if even ISO is claiming that one cannot "be certified" with regard to 26000, then nobody can argue that a company fails to be ISO certified if they don't follow an element of the 26000 guideline.

But you are right that even the "soft" pressure of such things as ISO compliance can become an irresistable force in many contexts.

I believe that Christians need to get out ahead of the curve on this and either take over credentialing entities, or gain enough influence at them to push them in the right direction, or just plain start their own organizations that write the standards properly. This includes having Christian medical, legal, and other professional organizations which explicitly endorse sensible rules. It doesn't really matter if these organizations put the other ones out of business, it is sufficient (for some purposes, anyway) that they be "official" organizations for the professionals to be able to point to and say "yes, I follow professional standards".

Is it legally clear cut that what East Lansing is doing counts as regulating the Tennes farm?

As far as I can tell, it's legally clear cut that East Lansing is attempting to regulate activities of the business, and specifically activities that take place outside of East Lansing's jurisdiction. Perhaps your question relates more to their having to agree "not to discriminate in general business practice" in order to participate in the farmer's market? That certainly amounts to a government body's penalizing them for not following city regulations, so...

Here are some quotes from ADF's brief concerning the Home Rule City Act:

362. It is unlawful under the Michigan Home Rule City Act for a municipal corporation
to exercise its power beyond city limits.
363. A municipal corporation violates this Act when it enforces its laws outside of its
geographical jurisdiction.
364. East Lansing is a municipal corporation.
365. Plaintiffs reside twenty-two miles outside of East Lansing in Charlotte, Michigan.
366. East Lansing has no authority to regulate Plaintiffs’ speech or their activities where
they reside, twenty-two miles outside of East Lansing.
367. The City recognizes the limitations placed on it by the Home Rule City Act, stating
on its Human Relations Commission website and in pamphlets published by the Human Relations
Commission that the City’s Human Relations Ordinance only applies to incidents within the city’s
368. Despite this, East Lansing adopted a Policy that incorporated its Human Relations
Ordinance in order to require Plaintiffs to comply with the Ordinance “and the public policy
against discrimination . . . while at the [Market] and as a general business practice” and exclude
Plaintiffs from the Market. Ex. 1, Vendor Guidelines p. 3 (emphasis added)

The Home Rule City Act is quite long, and I don't have before me the paragraphs to which ADF is alluding. But it sounds to me like East Lansing has previously understood that they can't generally control activities and "incidents" outside of their geographical limits and is now trying to find a way to do so anyway.

Here's the copy of the Home Rule City Act that I found on-line.


I believe that Christians need to get out ahead of the curve on this and either take over credentialing entities, or gain enough influence at them to push them in the right direction, or just plain start their own organizations that write the standards properly.

There are some college accreditation agencies that do this and have been recognized by the Department of Education to do credentialing. TRACS is one such. The AALE, while not Christian, is more conservative than regional accrediting agencies. Regional accreditation for colleges remains a kind of gold standard for transfer credit, etc., and there is no Christian or conservative regional accreditation board. On the other hand, the advantage of these organizations is that they can accredit colleges anywhere in the country. They were both founded some time ago (I believe the AALE got going in the 90's as an offshoot of the neo-conservative National Association of Scholars). I can't help wondering if such alternative agencies would now be allowed to get started if they weren't already in place.

Right, those were some of the organizations I was thinking about. A similar one is the Christian pediatric doctors association. We need lots more of these entities. We also need to get them founded before the government shuts the door on them as capable of standard-setting.

Call me crazy, but in our day it seems increasingly to be the case that the "mark of the beast" is an inverted rainbow triangle, and his {zie? zer?) name is spelled "LGBTQ+".

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Rev. 13:6-7)

@ Philo: I don't think you're too far off. It's somewhat chilling once you think about it. There are many who wouldn't call themselves leftists but are totally for LGBT "rights". It's as if they, for whatever reason, think it's completely a given to be for such a thing in this day and age. Practically a Trojan horse. Before Obergefell v Hodges, one can somewhat express their support for biblical/natural sexual mores and not get prosecuted for it, but after that landmark case of was past the dominoes fell and The Left felt even more empowered to literally shove their warped morality down the public's throat. The irony.

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