The Trump administration has resolved another fight over religion that the Obama administration started against a meatpacking plant in Michigan.
The Obama administration had actually threatened to close down the business of Don Vander Boon because he put an article on a table in a break room inside his own company about marriage being a special relationship between a man and a woman.
After Barack Obama changed his mind about marriage, to deny traditional marriage and start promoting same-sex “marriage,” the official position of the Obama administration came into conflict with the Vander Boons.
Officials wanted to stamp out any opposing opinion, so when a USDA food inspector removed the article, the action came with a threat to remove all USDA inspectors from the premises.
“This was effectively a threat to close the Vander Boons’ business because federal law requires the presence of USDA inspectors for plant operations to continue,” according to officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which worked on behalf of West Michigan Beef Co., of Grand Rapids.
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The operation is owned by Donald and Ellen Vander Boon, and they employ about four-dozen people.
See a video about the fight:
“The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the freedom to believe and the freedom to express those beliefs without fear of being targeted by the government,” said Legal Counsel Samuel Green of the ADF.
“We commend the Trump administration for making clear that the unconstitutional religious and viewpoint discrimination against the Vander Boons at their own private family business will not be tolerated and for recommitting federal agencies like the Department of Agriculture to respecting the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans.”
ADF and allied attorney James Wierenga have been representing the Vander Boons and their family business in an effort to correct the unlawful government censorship of the Vander Boons’ religious views.
“The USDA resolved the matter by issuing a guidance memorandum and a list of frequently asked questions. The documents explain that the First Amendment ‘prevents the government from discriminating against individual viewpoints’ and that USDA employees and people like the Vander Boons who own facilities the USDA inspects are free to exercise their freedom of speech, including speech relating to beliefs about marriage,” the ADF reported.
“I never would have imagined that the federal government would threaten to put me and my employees out of work because of religious literature on a breakroom table,” Vander Boon said in a statement released by his lawyers.
“My family and I seek to share God’s love and truth with others, and we’re thankful that the USDA is now recognizing our right and the right of other Americans to speak freely without facing government persecution.”
It was last February, shortly after President Trump took office, that ADF officials wrote him asking him to remedy the Vander Boom case.
“In May, Trump signed an executive order that was a first step toward protecting religious liberty. Days later, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a policy statement on the First Amendment, stating a ‘commitment to safeguarding every American’s First Amendment rights, particularly the right to free speech and the right to free religious exercise.’ ADF then issued a statement urging Perdue to translate that commitment into practical relief for the Vander Boons and Americans like them.”
Just last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance regarding religious liberty protections in federal law to be applied across all executive agencies and departments, the ADF said.
It states “Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government.”
“Religious business owners shouldn’t be forced to choose between their faith and participation in the marketplace,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The USDA not only threatened the Vander Boons’ livelihood over a piece of religious literature on a breakroom table, they also jeopardized the jobs of 45 other hardworking Americans. Secretary Perdue’s action to resolve this issue is another good sign that the Trump administration is taking free speech and religious freedom seriously.”