The Benham brothers, known as businessmen extraordinaire, are on video defending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, the target of harsh criticism by homosexual activists this week.
And they know of what they speak, being successful in business and having been the subjects of discrimination because of their Christian faith.
Jason and David, who just weeks ago began writing an exclusive WND column, posted on Facebook a video about the dispute:
The Indiana law, similar to the federal law signed by President Clinton in 1993 as well as laws in dozens of other states, suddenly grabbed the headlines when protesters vocally condemned it as discrimination against the LGBT community.
The law, however, doesn’t mention “gays” and is designed only to ensure the First Amendment rights of people to not violate their religious beliefs in the workplace. It sets a high standard, requiring the state have a compelling interest and that the free exercise of faith be “substantially burdened.”
The video explains: “So the RFRA is a shield, not a sword. It doesn’t get offensive and promote ‘hate’ as the hype said. But it’s a shield to protect companies, like, for instance, a Jewish-owned jewelry. It keeps the state from forcing him to create rings with the Nazi symbol on it. Or a Muslim-owned apparel company. It prevents the state from forcing him to maybe make T-shirts with the cross over the crescent.
“Or even a gay-owned apparel company from creating T-shirts that say Leviticus 18:22. Homosexuality is a sin.”
Very simply, “the state should never force business owners to promote a message or an idea that conflicts with their beliefs,” David Benham states.
“So this is what RFRA is all about, so Jason and I, even when we were fired by HGTV, never got onto them. We said, ‘You know what? We live in a free country. If they don’t agree with our message, if they don’t agree with our beliefs, they have a right to fire us.”
Such laws are important “because the state is now stepping in to try and force businesses to promote ideas and events and message that are against their beliefs,” which is “un-American.”
As WND reported, the veteran home-flippers were elated when a production company first approached them about starring in their own reality TV show.
Eventually, five networks made offers, with HGTV submitting the best: six one-hour episodes, straight to TV, with no pilot episode necessary.
The show was to be called “Flip it Forward” and would feature the Benham brothers transforming fixer-uppers into dream homes for families.
As Christians, they felt graced by God.
Then the show crashed. A liberal “watchdog” organization made a campaign of what HGTV already knew – that the brothers believed in the standards established in the Bible regarding marriage and life.
The brothers’ views, however, were portraying by media as “anti-gay” and “anti-choice,” and the show was canceled.
Watch WND Editor and CEO Joseph Farah interview the Benham brothers about the HGTV cancellation:
“While they gave us the verbal offer, before we signed the official long form, HG did all their research, found out that we were pro-life, pro-marriage guys, and they were OK with that,” David Benham told WND. “There was nothing new that surfaced before we got fired.
“HGTV knew what they were getting,” David said. “They did not know that this bully was going to come after them like they did, and so HGTV, when they fired us, there were tears on the phone. They didn’t want to let us go. They tried to stick with us … but they got bullied into this decision, and unfortunately for HGTV, they crumbled.”
Part of the brothers’ new platform is a book, “Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully,” released after they were fired.
They lost their show even though they had been recognized by the likes of Inc. Magazine, Ernst & Young and the Wall Street Journal for their business accomplishments.
Christian evangelist Franklin Graham also sounded off on Indiana’s law.
“The governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, is taking a lot of heat for doing the right thing,” he said.
Graham said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “protects the freedoms of Hoosiers of every faith.”
“He is being attacked by the LGBT community, liberal politicians and liberal media who don’t want Christians’ freedoms to be protected. Thank God for politicians like Gov. Pence who are not afraid to take a stand regardless of the political consequences. We need more men like him in public office.”
While Indiana lawmakers have said they are willing to amend the law to make clear its goal is not discrimination, criticism from business leaders has mounted.
For example, the Gateway Pundit noted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s diatribe against Indiana.
“Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228,” Cook said.
But the Gateway Pundit pointed out that some of the nations with whom Cook’s company does business do more than discriminate, they kill homosexuals.
“Cook may believe Indiana’s new law is very dangerous towards gays … but it’s not as dangerous as the several countries Apple does business with where they execute gays,” the site said, listing Uganda, Nigeria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Times reported a throng of possible GOP presidential candidates came to Pence’s defense, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; surgeon Ben Carson; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
“Nobody is saying that it should be legal to deny someone services at a restaurant or at a hotel because of the sexual orientation. I think that’s a consensus view in America,” Rubio said. “The flip side is, should a photographer be punished for refusing to do a wedding that their faith teaches them is not one that is valid in the eyes of God?”
Jeb Bush said, “This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience.”
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said RFRAs “are not intended to nor have they ever been used to deny anyone non-religious goods or services.”
“The government shouldn’t force religious businesses and churches to participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners’ beliefs. If the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no limits to what government can control.”
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston wrote in National Review: “Almost entirely lost in this kerfuffle has been the simple fact that the Indiana law is modeled on the 1993 federal law of the same name, and that counterparts have been adopted in 19 other states. Further, four federal courts of appeals and the Obama Justice Department have all taken the position that RFRA can be used as a defense in private suits involving the enforcement of laws that substantially burden free exercise of religion.”
Blackman said important debates “over the intersection of faith and equality are impaired when they are overtaken by misguided rhetoric, rather than being informed by the history and context of how our legal system has treated the issue.”
He said Indiana’s RFRA “does no more than codify that the private enforcement of public laws – such as discrimination claims – can be defended if there is a substantial burden on free exercise of religion.”