HGTV cancels show; stars called 'anti-gay'
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Home & Garden Television network has cancelled an upcoming reality show, and the program's stars believe the move came in response to a firestorm of controversy surrounding their traditional Christian views on abortion and gay marriage.
HGVT had slated for its fall lineup a show called "Flip It Forward," starring twin brothers David and Jason Benham. Each episode was to feature the brothers finding a "fixer-upper" house and remodeling it for a family with limited financial resources.
But following a report by the liberal website RightWingWatch.org that quoted one of the Benhams as opposing gay marriage and abortion and saying Christianity is superior to Islam, HGTV tweeted on May 7, "HGTV has decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers' series."
The brothers told CNN they believe HGTV was pressured into its decision.
"I feel they got bullied," David Benham said of HGTV Friday (May 9). "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."
The Benhams wrote in a statement on their website that they would choose their faith over a television show if those were the alternatives.
"We were saddened to hear HGTV's decision," they wrote. "With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it."
The Christian advocacy group Faith Driven Consumer launched a petition drive asking HGTV to reinstate "Flip It Forward" to its fall lineup. The petition, available at FlipThisDecison.com, garnered more than 8,500 signatures by May 9.
Among the Benhams' offenses, according to Right Wing Watch:
-- David Benham led a prayer rally outside the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and told a conservative radio host, "Eighty-seven percent of Americans are Christians and yet we have abortion on demand; we have no-fault divorce; we have pornography and perversion; we have a homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation; we have adultery ... we even have allowed demonic ideologies to take our universities and our public school systems while the church sits silent and just builds big churches.
"We are so complacent, we are so apathetic and we are very hypocritical in the church," he said. "That's why the Bible says judgment begins in the house of God."
-- David Benham supported a state constitutional amendment in North Carolina defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
-- David Benham led protests outside abortion clinics and on at least one occasion praised fellow demonstrators for taking a stand at the "gates of hell" and confronting the "altars of Molech."
-- David Benham said Muslims are the "enemy attacking" America and added, "The difference between Islam and Christianity: Islam takes life and enslaves it. Christianity lays its life down and sets you free."
The Right Wing Watch report does not mention Jason Benham other than to say he was scheduled to be costar of the HGTV program. The opening portion of the report focuses on the alleged offenses of the Benhams' father Flip Benham, an evangelical pastor.
Both Benham brothers are graduates of Liberty University, former minor league baseball players and owners of a business that flipped houses for profit for a decade.
David Benham said on CNN May 8 that he and his brother have never practiced discrimination.
"We love all people. I love homosexuals. I love Islam, Muslims, and my brother and I would never discriminate. Never have we -- never would we," David Benham said.
"Never have I ever spoken against homosexuals, as individuals, and gone against them," he added. "I speak about an agenda. And that's really what the point of this is -- that there is an agenda that is seeking to silence the voices of men and women of faith."
Jason Benham said HGTV vetted the brothers a year and a half ago, saw some of the material unearthed recently by Right Wing Watch and spoke with the twins about it.
"They got to know us a little better and then they made a judgment call, recognizing that David and I have no hate in our heart for anyone," Jason Benham told CNN. "We've been running a successful real estate company for the last 11 years and we help all people. There is no discrimination."
Evangelicals took to Twitter in defense of the Benhams.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said of HGTV's tweet announcing the cancelation, "That's a lot of cowardice packed into 140 characters."
R.C. Sproul Jr., a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, tweeted, "Unless the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it. God bless you and stand strong @BenhamBrothers."
Trevin Wax, managing editor of LifeWay Christian Resources' "The Gospel Project" curriculum, said via Twitter, "Here we go again, folks. Express your religious views, lose your contract."
Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, tweeted, "The media is pummeling the Benham Brothers, Liberty grads, for being anti-gay."
The Benhams, in their statement, wrote that their chief aim is to follow Jesus.
"The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is: have we shined Christ's light today?" they wrote. "Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying.
"Over the last decade, we've sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views."
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).