My wife and I were having coffee last Saturday morning, planning our self-quarantine day around the house, when I received a call from my attorney. A few sidewalk counselors from our ministry were outside of a local abortion clinic here in Charlotte…and 15 police officers were also there, threatening to arrest them.
I was astounded. Our organization, Cities4Life, is a federally recognized 501c3 public charity offering social services for mothers, providing them with medical care, mentoring, adoption resources, and housing assistance. When Governor Roy Cooper enacted the shelter-in-place statute, deeming NC abortion facilities as essential business, a provision was also made for public charities—especially those providing social services. Our sidewalk counselors were within their rights to be there.
The scene at the clinic was quiet and peaceful when I arrived. There were three of our sidewalk counselors and an ultrasound RV (provided by our local crisis pregnancy center). Across the street, however, stood 15 police officers. And as soon as I pulled up, the officers plainly said, “You can’t be here. There can be no gatherings of more than 10 people.”
Dumbfounded, I looked up and down the side of the street where I stood, two of my sons and one of their friends socially distanced behind me. My confusion turning to indignation, I replied, “First of all, there are not 10 people here. Plus, I am the Board Chairman of Cities4Life, and those sidewalk counselors are part of our organization. We are federally recognized public charity, so you can’t tell me to leave.”
Their reply came in no uncertain terms. “No,” they said, “this is gathering of more than 10 people, and we are going to make arrests.”
I calmly explained that, if this was the case, they should go down the street to Home Depot or the park and make arrests there. Clearly, the only reason they threatened to arrest me was because of where I was standing: in front of an abortion clinic.
Again, we were not 10 people, and we were not “gathering.” We had a legal right as an essential organization to provide our services. No matter. I was arrested for “violating an emergency prohibition and restriction” anyway, handcuffed, and driven away.
My moment in front of the magistrate was no less absurd. When she questioned me about my actions, I told her I was across the street from the counselors—literally standing by myself—when I was arrested. Plus, I reminded her that our organization had a legal right to be present. Her response rings in my ears today. “What if you would have infected one of the mothers who would have chosen life, and then the baby would have gotten COVID?” Ludicrous.
As it was with the police officers, my message to the magistrate was an attempt at conveying legal truth and simple logic. Women are going to that clinic feeling they have no other option than to abort their child. Our government has deemed it an “essential business” in NC, so we must be there offering an alternative choice. If a woman walks into that facility, she will come out alone. If she chooses life through our network, we are with her for years—sometimes decades—helping her, her children, and her family. Yet, a court date was set for June.
Rights and responsibilities
Christians are being unfairly attacked across the nation, despite following CDC guidelines and social distancing rules. Pro-life supporters are being threatened. Pastors around the country are being arrested. Now, I am arrested despite our charity’s actions being CDC-compliant and legal. It is all pointed and purposeful. Christians must wake up and take action.
This is clearly a spiritual battle, first and foremost, as the dark gets darker in this nation. On the side of Truth, there are two battlefronts on which we must fight. First, our Constitutional rights are being trampled. Liberal and leftist leaders are using this COVID crisis to garner more power and transform our nation. Governor Northam of Virginia articulated this without timidity, as he proclaimed this as an opportunity to “envision a new progressive future.” Perhaps he means a future without a conservative voice, without pro-life Christians, without Sunday gatherings.
In addition to battling for our rights, Christians must take seriously our responsibility to love our neighbors—both born and pre-born. When Jesus defined a “neighbor” in chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel, the neighbor wasn’t the one who held a sign by the ditch once a year. The neighbor climbed into the ditch, tended wounds, and provided long-term care. And as Americans continue to drastically alter our behavior to protect ourselves, Christians need to take equally drastic measures to protect the lives of the unborn—to love our neighbors.
There has been a lot of “virtue-signaling” from the left—and even from Christians—saying, “You need to care for your neighbor and stay inside your house.” But, if you go to the grocery store, you’re around a lot more people than I was around last Saturday morning. And, if you order from Amazon, you’re putting lives at risk. Just head down to the liquor store and you’ll see a line wrapped around the store. So, don’t virtue-signal and shame me when I am within my rights and going above and beyond social distance practices because I want to be a voice for the unborn.
Three thousand babies are being slaughtered daily in this country. And Christians must be emboldened by this growing trend of persecution. It is our responsibility and must be our resolve. We are called to live for Jesus, to speak the truth in love, and, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with others. But we must be a voice for the voiceless. And if our God-given rights are threatened in the process, we must stand firm and not back down.
David Benham is the Board Chairman of called Cities4Life, a pro-life network of support services in Charlotte, NC, that includes housing ministries, adoption agencies, and medical services. Since 2010, over 5000 mothers have chosen life for their babies. Both David and his wife are graduates of Liberty University, and they have served together in the pro-life movement since 1988.