David Benham and other pro-life demonstrators have filed a lawsuit against a North Carolina city after they were arrested or cited while outside an abortion clinic.
Benham, Cities4Life, and Global Impact Ministries, also known as Love Life, filed suit against the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County last Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division.
According to the complaint, police punished the pro-life demonstrators outside A Preferred Women’s Health of Charlotte, even though they were following social distancing practices.
The plaintiffs argued that the police were selective in their enforcement of the stay-at-order, noting that while they were being cited, “the abortion clinic began filling up with clients and numerous people roamed the parks and sidewalks for recreation and exercise.”
“Cities4Life and Love Life … were praying on the sidewalk, maintaining a safe distance from one-another and others, and helping women interested in the important charitable services they offered,” argued the complaint.
“Despite the health and safety motivations underlying the COVID-19 restrictions, government officials cannot and should not selectively enforce those regulations. Nor should they prohibit constitutionally protected activities that do not endanger public health or safety.”
The pro-life activists are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that has argued religious liberty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said in a statement Saturday that he believed the arrests and citations were “about the government silencing people because it doesn’t like their point of view.”
“We support the efforts of public officials to prioritize health and safety, but if other people are free to talk on sidewalks, people of faith should be, too. They can’t be singled out for their religious beliefs or because their form of speech is prayer or pro-life counseling,” said Theriot.
“And if abortion businesses can stay open during the coronavirus crisis, non-profit organizations that provide social services to women should be allowed outside — particularly when they are abiding by health and safety guidelines, as Mr. Benham and the others were.”
One of the twin brothers dropped from an HGTV home-flipping show in 2014 after LGBT activists pressured the network over their beliefs on marriage and sexuality, Benham was arrested on April 4 while engaging in pro-life sidewalk counseling.
Benham posted a video on social media of police officers arresting him for engaging in sidewalk counseling outside of the abortion clinic, which was labeled a “non-essential” activity.
“We support taking every precaution during COVID-19. This is why we maintained our social distance and stayed under 10 in number,” he stated at the time.
“We were not belligerent … We simply stood our ground. MLK once said, ‘A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right.’”
Last week, a trio of pro-life activists successfully sued to be guaranteed the right to protest outside of abortion clinics in Michigan despite a state stay-at-home order.
Andrew Belanger, who was ticketed for demonstrating outside an abortion clinic, and pro-life activists Justin Phillips and Cal Zastrow filed the suit against the City of Detroit and the governor.
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff issued an order last week, noting that both parties had reached an agreement that allows for pro-life demonstrations during the lockdown period.
“Defendants agree that Executive Order 2020-21 does not prohibit the conduct of Plaintiffs that is alleged in the Complaint,” noted the order.
“The City of Detroit shall dismiss the criminal citation issued to Plaintiff Andrew Belanger and any related criminal charges or proceedings that might arise from this citation and the incident related to it.”