Pro-life activists from North Carolina continue in their legal fight against city officials who had them arrested for praying outside an abortion clinic in April 2020.
CBN News said Cities4Life President David Benham has filed an amended lawsuit against North Carolina officials for the "improper" arrest made to them considering charges against them were eventually dropped.
Alliance Defending Freedom, who handles the "Benham v. City of Charlotte" case filed in the local trial court, explained in an interview with The Christian Post through its Senior Counsel Denise Harle that the amendment involves incorporating Benham's Fourth Amendment rights.
"The dropping of the charges actually underscores why this amended complaint should prevail. What we've added in this amended complaint is Fourth Amendment claims, based on the unlawful stop, unlawful detention, and unlawful arrests, the fact that the city and the county dropped the charges against David Benham shows that those arrests were improper," Harle pointed out.
"The fact that they're not even pursuing the charges is a pretty clear admission that there's no there, there. And that's exactly what we're bringing to the federal court in this amended complaint is that those arrests themselves were a violation of the Fourth Amendment."
Harle said she understands the government's role in protecting public health especially in the face of the pandemic but raised that it must be done in "an evenhanded way" that does not discriminate a certain group on the basis of "viewpoint" and does not impede any "religious views" or constitutional rights.
"The government certainly is welcomed to protect public health, but if it is going to do that, it needs to do so in an evenhanded way that has a rational basis. What it can't do is enact a law and then apply it unfairly only to select groups of people whose viewpoint the government disagrees with," Harle said.
Benham, who is a former host of HGTV's "Flip It Forward" and a minor league baseball player, was arrested on April 4 for "sidewalk counseling" due to alleged violations of COVID-19 guidelines. Benham's case, recognized as one of those "successfully defended religious freedom" during the pandemic, was originally filed by ADF on April 18, 2020 for violation of Benham's First Amendment rights.
Accordingly, Benham was praying peacefully outside an abortion facility with a handful of volunteers making sure they follow social distancing guidelines and were not larger than the required 10 persons for gatherings. Benham was handcuffed by police officers for violating the state's "stay-at-home" orders even though he was allowed to be outside with his volunteers since "Cities4Life is considered an 'essential business'."
Benham, then and there, pointed out to the police officers that the arrest was "wrong and you know it" but he was still brought to jail. Benham was surprised hours later that his father, Flip, and his son were brought in to join him after also being arrested on the same day for being pro-life.
In the amended complaint, Benham requested the court for relief and to enter judgment against the City of Charlotte by declaring the latter violated the former's First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Benham also requested for "all appropriate" nominal and compensatory damages due to the said violations, as well as granting "other relief that it deems equitable and just in the circumstances."