Alumnus's unlawful arrest outside abortion clinic activates more Christians to stand for the unborn
Liberty University alumnus, entrepreneur, and social activist David Benham (’98) said his unconstitutional arrest on Saturday, April 4, outside the Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, N.C., is evidence that the government is intent on using regulations imposed by COVID-19 to suppress religious expression.
“We recognize that there is a progressive agenda to use COVID-19 guidelines to silence pro-life and religious organizations,” said Benham, who was arrested for the first time while engaging in peaceful sidewalk counseling with Cities4Life outside the center where abortions are performed.
Benham helped establish and serves as chairman of the board of Cities4Life, a nonprofit organization that sets up medical and other support for women choosing life. The organization is considered an essential service, so it does not have to abide by North Carolina’s “shelter-in-place” or the city’s “stay-at-home ” orders.
“When (North Carolina) Governor (Roy) Cooper put in the stay-in-shelter statute, he deemed North Carolina abortion facilities as essential businesses. Inside that statute, there is a provision that public charities are also essential businesses, especially if you are giving social services. We clearly had rights as sidewalk counselors to be there.”
He said one of 15 police officers called to the scene cited him and other Cities4Life representatives for “violating an emergency prohibition and restriction” order, although there were fewer than 10 and they were separated by more than 6 feet. (Watch a video of Benham’s arrest on his Facebook page.) Meanwhile, he said there were more than 10 employees and clients, not to mention their unborn children, confined in close quarters inside the clinic that was mandated by the state to remain open.
Despite complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations and social distancing orders, Benham said his organization is not the only one being targeted, with Christians across the country receiving citations for being outside abortion clinics.
“What we’re seeing is a twofold battle,” Benham said. “On one side of the coin, it is a trampling of our constitutional rights. Liberal left leaders — governors, mayors, city council members, other legislators — are using this COVID-19 crisis, which is a true global pandemic, to swath more power.”
He cited Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who said the crisis gives opportunity for citizens “to envision a new progressive future.”
“Does that mean a future without a conservative voice? A future without pro-life Christians? A future without church on Sunday?”
“We know it’s a spiritual battle,” he added. “It’s not a battle between conservatives and liberals or Republicans and Democrats. It’s ultimately a spiritual battle because our side is on the side of truth. The devil comes to rob, kill, and destroy, but Christ and His followers come to bring life, and life more abundantly.”
He said the other side of the battle is more of a charge and a wake-up call to Christians. In his most recent book, “Bold and Broken: Becoming the Bridge Between Heaven and Earth,” which he wrote with his twin brother Jason (’98), he exhorts believers not to be belligerent, but to be faithful to stand in the gap for the unborn at such a time as this.
“We have our Christian responsibility, and this is a message to the Church,” Benham said. “We are called to love our neighbors, both born and pre-born. We have, as Americans, drastically altered our behavior (through social distancing) to protect ourselves and the vulnerable. But we as Christians must also drastically alter our behavior to protect the lives of the preborn. If governors are going to say that abortion is essential, then Christians have to maintain that pro-life sidewalk counseling is essential and we have to fight this.”
Benham has started an online petition for pro-life advocates to take a virtual stand.
“COVID-19 regulations mean that the unborn are more vulnerable than ever,” Benham said. “I’m asking Christians to put their elected leaders on notice that we won’t tolerate religious discrimination. I’m urging our leaders to do their part in making sure all citizens’ rights are protected.”
He said there are many ways to get involved, even in this unprecedented time of confinement, using social media as a platform for communicating the pro-life message.
“Begin to let your voice be heard because policy is downstream from culture,” Benham said. “Culture is where the conversations and the debates are taking place.”
The Benham brothers also take an active role in Love Life, a nationwide pro-life organization with chapters in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, N.C., as well as New York City. More than 5,000 mothers over the past 10 years have chosen life and have been plugged into the Love Life network of services. Love Life is promoting a nationwide prayer and fasting movement for the born and unborn, featuring weekly virtual prayer walks from 9:29-10:29 a.m. (EST) on Saturdays. Live updates from the events are streamed on the organization's Facebook page and feature local pastors on site at abortion centers across the four cities.
At Liberty, the Benhams were both standouts on the baseball team. Read more about their fight for the unborn in the Fall 2019 issue of the Liberty Journal.