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David Benham addresses Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham September 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, April 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – David Benham, one of the evangelical Benham Brothers, told the story of his Saturday arrest outside a North Carolina abortion center this week on The Van Maren Show, warning that exploitation of the coronavirus crisis to shut down safe pro-life speech is a sign of growing dangers to come.

“I was sipping coffee with my wife one Saturday morning when I got a phone call from our sidewalk team that said ‘hey guys, we’re out here at the abortion clinic, we’ve only got three sidewalk counselors, and yet there’s fifteen officers, they’re threatening arrest for breaking the COVID laws,” Benham says.

Benham, who along with his brother Jason saw their planned HGTV series canceled in 2014 over their outspoken Christian views, notes that his organization Cities4Life is a federally-recognized charity that qualifies as an “essential business” per the lockdown order, and that the volunteers out Saturday were not only well within the ten-person limit on public gatherings, but were using sidewalk chalk to ensure they remained six feet apart from one another.

A video released by the Benham Brothers shows David asserting his legal rights to one of the officers before being arrested. “The actual citation was violating emergency prohibitions and restrictions,” Benham says, noting that the officer said he was acting on orders from the city attorney. He adds that the police department later falsely accused him of staging a protest of fifty people.

Sign the petition supporting David Benham and other pro-lifers arrested for sidewalk counseling here.

“The only reason you’re not going to the Home Depot (which is down the street) with a thousand people there, the only reason you’re not going to the park with 1,500 people there, is because I’m standing in front of an abortion clinic,” Benham recalls telling the officer. “He had nothing to say.”

Right now we know that if our rights and our liberties are taken,” Benham warns. “Who knows what it’s gonna be like for our children and our children’s children.” 

He accuses state and city officials of essentially saying, “‘we want these women to go into these abortion facilities that are gonna give no assistance whatsoever, and it’s gonna devastate their lives’” while at the same time keeping them from “pro-life organizations that are gonna help mothers holistically from womb to tomb, not just the baby but the mother and the family.”

Pro-life activists have also been arrested in California and Michigan for gathering outside of abortion centers, even when maintaining social distancing and carrying documentation of their legal right to do so. Sidewalk counselors were also threatened with arrest in Wisconsin, but ultimately allowed to continue.

Despite these challenges, Benham sees positive developments arising from the negative. 

“It’s awakening pro-life Christians and it’s awakening others,” he says. “On the one hand, it’s awakening Americans to fight and defend our rights, to not allow leaders, especially the liberal-left leaders from using this real crisis to grab power for themselves and to silence voices.”

“They’re exercising viewpoint discrimination. It’s also altering Christians to the reality that… we are altering our behavior to protect ourselves from COVID. How about we alter our behavior to protect the most vulnerable among us, those that don’t even have a voice, the unborn,” he added. 

Benham tells Van Maren that Christians should take away from his experience the need to “step into the culture and join this conversation and be willing to take a hit, be willing to be called a bigot, be willing to be called a hater, be willing to be lied about by the police department.”

Further details on respecting public health rules during pro-life activism, and on pro-lifers’ legal right to stay active during this time, can be found at Pro-Life Action League's website here. Readers can also click here for LifeSiteNews’ live updates on the coronavirus and its impact all over the world.