On April 4, former minor league baseball player and former HGTV host David Benham was arrested.
David, the chairman of the board for Cities4Life in Charlotte, North Carolina, was peacefully praying outside an abortion facility. He and a handful of other volunteers were following COVID-19 social distancing guidelines by not gathering in groups larger than 10 and staying at least six feet away from each other.
Still, the police arrested David for allegedly violating the County’s “stay-at-home” order. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on his behalf on April 18.
David sat down with Kristen Waggoner, Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Advocacy at ADF, to tell his story.
“I was shocked,” David told Kristen.
Cities4Life is considered an “essential business” and is therefore allowed to continue operating during North Carolina’s “stay-at-home” order. On top of that, David said Cities4Life went “above and beyond” to ensure that they followed safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19—including measuring six feet of distance between counselors and marking it with sidewalk chalk as well as paring down to only a handful of volunteers.
Despite this, Charlotte police arrested David. “This is wrong and you know it,” David said to officers moments before they handcuffed him.
It’s easy to feel discouraged by this injustice. Abortion facilities in many states, including North Carolina, are considered “essential services” during COVID-19 shutdowns. Meanwhile, pro-life volunteers who want to give women real help and save the lives of their unborn children are needlessly arrested.
But we know that God can use even the worst circumstances to bring about good.
Because the Cities4Life volunteers were present in front of that abortion clinic the morning of April 4, 2 lives were saved.
“When [the police] were walking me to the squad car, there was a mother in the mobile ultrasound unit that was getting a free sonogram. Her name was Reena,” David told Kristen. “Reena decided because of that free ultrasound when she saw her baby, she chose life.”
Now, one of the sidewalk counselors is mentoring Reena, helping her through her pregnancy. Cities4Life will also help provide the material resources she needs. Reena was one of two women who chose life outside of that abortion facility. Praise God!
This would not have happened if Cities4Life volunteers had stayed home.
But they know that the services they provide for vulnerable women and their unborn babies are essential, which is why they showed up that morning. And they had every right to do so. By arresting David, police violated the constitutional rights of these pro-life advocates.
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Charlotte on behalf of Cities4Life and another pro-life group.
“My constitutional rights don’t go out the door because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” David said. “We went above and beyond to protect our neighbor, but we also are essential to protect our most vulnerable neighbors, the unborn.”
While the violation of these pro-life sidewalk counselor’s rights is disturbing, it is encouraging to see God at work during these difficult times.