David Benham and other pro-life activists filed an amended complaint to their lawsuit against North Carolina officials after they were arrested a year ago.
An amended lawsuit was recently filed against a handful of North Carolina officials over the arrest of David Benham and other pro-life activists outside an abortion clinic last year. During the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, Benham and various other sidewalk counselors visited an abortion clinic in Charlotte in 2020 “to try and persuade mothers seeking an abortion to change their minds.” Soon after they arrived, they were cited by police and arrested.
The amended complaint was filed on Monday against the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division. The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the activists. In recent years, the conservative law firm has “successfully argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
When commenting on the decision to file the amending complaint, Denise Harle, senior counsel with ADF, said the decision to do so “was strengthened by the fact that the charges against Benham and the others were later dropped.” Harle added:
“The dropping of the charges 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.”
“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 also noted that she “believed the arrests of Benham and the sidewalk counselors were a violation of the First Amendment and motivated by targeting of free speech and animosity toward certain religious views…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.”
Why were Benham and the other activists arrested, though? Well, according to the authorities, the “April 2020 arrests were made because Benham and the others were allegedly violating state lockdown orders.” After the incident and throughout the litigation process, Benham and the other activists have denied any wrongdoing.
The suit alleges the “police selectively enforced the orders” and notes that “the abortion clinic began filling up with clients and numerous people roamed the parks and sidewalks for recreation and exercise.” The complaint further states:
“[We] were praying on the sidewalk, maintaining a safe distance from one another and others, and helping women interested in the important charitable services they offered…Despite the health and safety motivations underlying the COVID-19 restrictions, government officials cannot and should not selectively enforce those regulations. Nor should they prohibit constitutionally protected activities that do not endanger public health or safety.”