NC county agrees to pay $20,000 to pro-life advocates

by mcardinal

Curt Flewelling, FISM News

Mecklenburg County has agreed to pay $20,000 in attorney fees to famed Christian pro-life advocate David Benham and two other ministries as part of a settlement stemming from a lawsuit filed by the former HGTV reality show star.

Benham claimed that his constitutional rights were violated on April 4, 2020, as he and other pro-life advocates were simply engaging in peaceful prayer and sidewalk counseling outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte.

The civil action asserted that Benham and his associates from Cities4Life and Global Impact Ministries were unlawfully stopped, arrested, and detained for exercising their First Amendment right to publicly express their pro-life beliefs.

The county viewed their assembly differently, as police arrested and charged the group with violating Emergency Prohibitions and Restrictions as their gathering was held at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, while this was occurring, the abortion clinic was brimming with clients and the sidewalks were teeming with individuals engaging in recreation and exercise. A fact that was not missed by Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) senior counsel, Denise Harle.

She had this to say about the county’s selective enforcement of the law: “The government can protect public health and safety and still respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms Americans have. From the beginning, this case has been about the government silencing people because it didn’t like their point of view.”

The $20,000 the county agreed to pay the aggrieved parties was only part of their victory. The county acknowledges in section 3a of the settlement that: peaceful advocacy on public sidewalks and public streets is governed by First Amendment law regarding free speech in a traditional public forum.

The county goes even further in admitting that they overstepped their bounds in section 3b of the document. This section assures that the state will never again use emergency regulation to infringe on a citizen’s religious liberties. 

Section 3b reads: In any further proclamation, order, or similar emergency regulation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic issued or enacted by the County, the County will, as required by law, include an exemption substantially similar to the following: “Outdoor gatherings for the purpose of religious or spiritual worship, or for the purpose of engaging in First Amendment  protected speech or assembly, shall not be prohibited, provided that all measures for social distancing applicable to other similar activities are followed.”

The case is yet another example of a flurry of recent legal victories that  Americans have won in their ongoing battle to preserve and exercise their religious liberties.