Life Style

Alliance Defending Freedom Settles Pro-Life Sidewalk Counselor Case

In a victory for the pro-life movement, a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys on behalf of David Benham and members of two pro-life organizations who were arrested or cited for engaging in peaceful prayer and sidewalk counseling outside an abortion facility has been settled. 


Mecklenburg County officials have acknowledged that the public advocacy of pro-life citizens is protected under the First Amendment as part of the settlement of the lawsuit. 


The case, Benham v. City of Charlotte, involved the arrest of minor league baseball player and founder of pro-life group Cities4Life, David Benham, along with his father and son, while peacefully standing outside an abortion center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Cities4Life is a federally recognized non-profit providing support, resources and pregnancy care services for at-risk women. 


Although Benham and his group were following COVID guidelines by staying in groups smaller than ten people and maintaining 6 feet distance from each other, police arrested Benham and others for violating COVID stay-at-home policies.


Alliance Defending Freedom first sent a letter to the City of Charlotte on David’s behalf, explaining that the arrests should not have occurred because the individuals complied with all applicable emergency orders and proclamations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that month, ADF filed a lawsuit against Charlotte and Mecklenburg County on behalf of David and other pro-life groups also targeted by the authorities for supposedly violating COVID policies. 


ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life, said that from the beginning, the case has been about the government silencing people because it didn’t like their point of view. “People of faith can’t be singled out for their religious beliefs or because their form of speech happens to be prayer or pro-life counseling. We commend Mecklenburg County officials for finally agreeing to respect the free speech rights of Mr. Benham and the other pro-life citizens and for acknowledging their freedom to pray and speak in the public square, and we invite the city of Charlotte to follow suit,” she said.  


Following the settlement, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal of the county from the ongoing case, Benham v. City of Charlotte. The case is still active against the city of Charlotte. As part of the settlement, Mecklenburg County officials have agreed to pay $20,000 towards the attorneys’ fees of the pro-life organizations involved.


Benham and his team continue to provide counseling and resources to at-risk women outside abortion centers. On the morning they were arrested, a young woman named Reena decided to keep her baby after receiving a free ultrasound in their mobile ultrasound unit, proving the essential nature of their work. 


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when churches and ministries were facing unequal treatment compared to secular organizations and businesses, ADF Ministry Alliance took a stand for these religious organizations, advocating for their ability to continue ministering during a crucial moment in history. ADF lawyers provide legal aid to over 3,500 churches and ministries throughout the United States, protecting their right to continue the work of spreading the Gospel. 



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