What “tolerance” means – and what’s at stake
Author: Lisa Van Houten  


“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

You may recognize that as one of the many classic lines from the movie, The Princess Bride.  It’s an apt quote to describe the new lexicon of the Progressive Left.  When it comes to tolerance, for example, their definition doesn’t “mean what you think it means.”  Tolerance doesn’t mean accepting the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion; rather Progressives demand that everyone affirms their opinion.  And if you don’t, you’re labeled a bigot.

The Left demands we call Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn.  That we allow boys who “identify” as girls to shower in girls locker rooms and compete on girls sports teams.  And imposes not only a legal change to the definition of marriage, but demands that people of faith condone the union of same-sex couples – or face the coercive power of the government to force compliance.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear the case of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, one of the growing list of Christian bakers, florists, and wedding photographers who have found the power of the state will no longer tolerate the free exercise of religion if adhering to those religious beliefs causes them to refrain from participating in gay wedding ceremonies. 

With this upcoming case before the Supreme Court, the stakes are high when it comes to religious liberty.  Whether it’s the state forcing a Christian baker support gay marriage, or a local government penalizing a fruit farmer because they don’t support gay marriage (as I write about below), the free exercise of religion is under attack.

That’s exactly what recently happened to Steve and Bridget Tennes, owners of Country Mill Farms in the small town of Charlotte, Michigan – 22 miles away from East Lansing.  The Tennes family grows organic fruit and vegetables which they have sold at the East Lansing Farmers Market each summer since 2010.  But you won’t find them at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market this year, thanks to the “tolerance police.” 

You see, Steve and Bridget Tennes, haven’t accepted the Left’s definition of marriage.  As Christians, they believe marriage is ordained by God as the union of a man and a woman.  When Steve Tennes posted on Facebook about their biblical views, East Lansing officials got wind of it and made it clear Tennes wasn’t welcome at the Farmers Market. 

Yet Tennes wasn’t violating any state or local law.  The Tennes family doesn't even live in East Lansing – their farm is 22 miles away.  And when selling their produce in East Lansing, they complied with the city’s “Human Relations Ordinance,” happily selling to anyone who wished to buy their fruits and vegetables no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation.  So that left the East Lansing officials with a conundrum – how to get rid of this “bigot” who holds a personal belief that marriage in defined as the union of a man and a woman.

So earlier this year, the City of East Lansing quickly passed a new ordinance requiring that vendors not only refrain from what they deem is “discrimination” while selling their wares within the East Lansing city limits, but must also comply with the city’s vague “anti-discrimination” policy as a “general business practice”.  In other words, East Lansing is dictating the business practices of a farm 22 miles away - along with muzzling the farmer’s freedom of speech.

 “We were surprised and we were shocked,” stated Steve Tennes. “My wife and I both volunteered to serve in the military – to protect freedom, now we come home and the freedom that we worked to protect – we have to defend in our own backyard.”

East Lansing officials sent Steve and Bridget Tennes a letter stating they were in violation of this new policy – attaching  a copy of their Facebook post as “evidence”- and prohibited from selling produce at the farmers market.

As Tennes so aptly stated:  “Whether you are a Jew, Muslim or Christian – people of faith should not be eradicated from the marketplace simply because they don’t share the same thoughts and ideas that the government is choosing to promote.”

No one should be forced to abandon their beliefs as requirement of doing business.  Thankfully, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom are coming to the Tennes’ defense, filing a suit against the city citing that “the city policy violated the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion, and equal protection—in addition to other protections” and “ requests that the court restore Country Mill Farms’ constitutionally protected freedoms and prevent a violation of Michigan’s law governing cities.”  (Michigan law bans cities from regulating outside their city limits.)

As ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson stated: “People of faith, like the Tennes family, should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of losing their livelihood. If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free.”

Click here to express your concern to East Lansing officials for their egregious treatment of the Tennes family and violation of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. 

The Tennes family’s stand for Biblical truth should encourage each of us to do likewise.  And if that doesn’t, perhaps these timeless words from 19th century theologian, J.C. Ryle will.

To serve Christ in name and form is easy work, and satisfies most people, but to follow Him in faith and life demands more trouble than the generality of men will take about their souls. Laughter, ridicule, opposition, persecution, are often the only reward which Christ's followers get from the world. Their religion is one, "whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Rom. 2:29.) Yet to him who follows, let us never forget, the Lord Jesus holds out abundant encouragement--"Where I am," He declares, "there also shall my servant be; if any man serves Me, him will my Father honor." Let us lay to heart these comfortable promises, and go forward in the narrow way without fear. The world may cast out our name as evil, and turn us out of its society; but when we dwell with Christ in glory, we shall have a home from which we can never be ejected. The world may pour contempt on our religion, and laugh us and our Christianity to scorn; but when the Father honors us at the last day, before the assembly of angels and men, we shall find that His praise makes amends for all.

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American Decency Association is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.


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