Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
Email: info@ulccaselaw.com
ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006


Farmer Wins Lawsuit Over Religious Discrimination

October 24th, 2023

A farmer in Michigan recently won a lawsuit over religious discrimination after he was banned from a public market.

People in the United States must be careful about retaliating against each other purely on the grounds of religion. Although it might seem like some religious views are “evil” or “wrong,” the Constitution specifically protects freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Discrimination is also unlawful in many situations, and it is all too easy to make the mistake of discriminating based on religion. This is something that a public market in Michigan recently discovered when they attempted to ban a farmer for opposing same-sex marriage. 

Farmer Sued after Being Banned from Public Market over his Religious Views

On August 22, 2023, it was reported that a fruit grower had successfully won a ruling over a situation that saw him banned from a public market. A judge in East Lansing decided that his religious beliefs had not been respected when he was banned from the market on account of his opposition to same-sex marriage. These views became known because the farmer had been renting out his premises for weddings. It then became clear that he was declining customers who wanted to host same-sex wedding ceremonies. 

These views were also echoed on the farmer’s social media accounts. When the public market administrators became aware of these views, they decided to ban him from selling his fruit at their events. As a result, the farmer has been banned from attending the public market since 2017. Unsatisfied with this treatment, the farmer decided to take the market to court. 

Results of the Lawsuit

What followed was an interesting conflict between the right to follow one’s religion and the city’s ordinance against discrimination. We have seen many of these lawsuits over the past few years, and they can go either way. This time, however, it was the plaintiffs fighting for their religious freedoms that claimed victory. 

Why did the farmer win? At the end of the day, the judge ruled that:

“The city has not demonstrated a compelling interest in excluding plaintiffs from the market. The city’s non-discrimination ordinance tolerates the same discrimination in other situations.”

Essentially, the judge is stating that the city’s ordinance is not consistent. If you are going to create anti-discrimination laws, they must apply to everyone equally. You cannot state that certain individuals (such as same-sex couples) are protected from discrimination while others (such as religious individuals) are not. Banning the farmer from the market while decrying his ban on same-sex weddings at his farm was seen to be hypocritical. 

The farmer’s attorney also pointed out that he accepted everyone to his fruit stand, no matter what their background might be. It was only when it came to the subject of marriage that he took a stand based on his religious views. In his mind, marriage is a religious subject, and therefore, he was obliged to follow his own religious teachings on this matter. When it came to selling fruit, however, he did not discriminate against anyone because this was a purely commercial, non-religious activity. This case may continue with further appeals and arguments. 

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each week, the Universal Life Church’s blog focuses on documenting the most noteworthy cases involving the required separation between church and state and freedom of religion. Our blog focuses on describing matters in a way that objectively examines both sides and which can be easily understood by readers. 

Leave a Reply