“There’s an agenda that’s out in America right now that demands silence, especially from men and women who profess Jesus Christ and hold to his standards.”

That was David Benham speaking on CNN about his and twin brother Jason’s treatment after HGTV decided to pull the plug on their new TV show, “Flip it Forward.”

The Benham brothers have repeated the same line over and over again on TV stations and radio shows more times than we could possibly count.

Which begs the question: If you’re hopping from one national TV studio to another — with network executives begging you for interviews — are you truly being silenced?

Hell no.

The Benham brothers — like those who spoke out against recent NFL draftee Michael Sam and, more distantly, in support of Chick-fil-A — suffer from no less than, at best, delusion and, at worst, willful stupidity.

Folks here in Charlotte have long been familiar with the Benhams, especially their father, Flip. The elder Benham has made a name for himself protesting at local women’s clinics and LGBT events. He’s loud, obnoxious, intimidating and, lo and behold, a convicted stalker.

But, it’s safe to say few in mainstream America had ever heard of David or Jason before their flap with HGTV. Far from being silenced, the TV network’s decision to drop the Benhams have catapulted them to national — nay, international — media stardom. They’re a household name now.

That doesn’t seem like a “silencing” to me. Bros need a dictionary.

But, what’s truly most shocking — and revealing — about the Benham brothers’ repeated claim that they have been censored and their livilihoods threatened is their past history of taking to their own agenda doing exactly what they accuse others of doing. And, unlike their HGTV controversy, the Benhams attempted to influence not some privately-owned company, but rather government itself. The Benhams advocated for nothing short of the truest, most textbook-example definition of censorship.

In 2004, the Benhams approached Charlotte City Council and forcefully demanded that local government leaders silence Charlotte Pride and the city’s LGBTQ community.

David referred to drag queens using a common anti-transgender slur, while Jason followed up with the tyrannical request, emphasis added: “They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I employ [sic] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.”

Deny them every permit they ask for, huh?

Conservatives like the Benhams, Michael Sam bashers and Chick-fil-A supporters just love citing the First Amendment. Most of them, though, don’t understand a single word of it.

The First Amendment doesn’t shield you from the consequences of your statements. Any person is free to say anything they well please. Others, in turn, are free to counter.

“Free speech” protections have no bearing on the NCAA, NBA, NFL or any other sports league which decides to fine or otherwise punish a player or team owner. “Free speech” has no bearing on HGTV or Bank of America or any other private company which decides to drop an employee or contractor. It has no bearing on anything at all — except for exactly that scenario for which Jason Benham asked Charlotte City Council.

If Council and local government had taken the Benhams’ request seriously, LGBT people in this city would have erupted like a volcano —  of lawsuits, that is. And, we would have won.

The city knew this, and that’s why they correctly ignored the Benhams’ idiotic requests.

The sheer hypocrisy between 2004 Benhams and 2014 Benhams is clear as day. They are cheap charlatans with not even the most basic understanding of law or the Constitution or even how “free speech” works.

“Free speech” is a two-way street, and sometimes standing smack-dab in the middle of the wrong side of the street will get you run over. The solution is simple — change lanes, or take the consequences of your stupidity. They are entirely free to make their own choice. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.