UPDATE: The Daily Caller reports that SunTrust Bank has reversed its decision and will reestablish its business relationship with David and Jason Benham.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, SunTrust spokeswoman Beth McKenna said that the decision to cut ties with the Benhams came through a third-party vendor.
“We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate,” McKenna said. “While we do not publicly comment on specific vendor relationships, we don’t make choices on suppliers nor base business decisions on political factors, nor do we direct our third party vendors to do so.”
The statement continued, “SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”
OUR EARLIER REPORT (3:35 p.m.): A television show isn’t all David and Jason Benham will lose for speaking out about their Christian faith. The twin brothers, who recently had their HGTV house-flipping show canceled, found out yesterday SunTrust Bank no longer wants to do business with their company.
According to a report from The Daily Caller, the brothers had “preferred broker” status with the bank, which used Benham REO Group to sell foreclosed properties. The brothers had worked with SunTrust for several years, and the 15-minute phone call ending their relationship came as a surprise.
“We were caught off-guard with this one,” David Benham said. “Keeping us off television wasn’t enough; now this agenda to silence wants us out of the marketplace.”
Benham told The Daily Caller that bank employees wouldn’t give an explanation for their decision. A bank spokesman declined to say whether the brothers’ faith played any role. SunTrust also severed ties with franchisees who work with the Benhams but don’t necessarily share their faith.
The Benhams, who live and work in Charlotte, N.C., found themselves in the public spotlight after liberal advocacy group Right Wing Watch successfully lobbied HGTV to kill their show, which was set to air in October. Right Wing Watch described David Benham as a “virulent anti-gay activist” and “anti-choice,” based largely on comments he made during a rally before the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
SunTrust touts its commitment to diversity and its “culture of inclusion,” which includes “creating an atmosphere of respect that capitalizes on our differences.” But that inclusion obviously doesn’t include Christians, Benham said.
The Benhams have never been shy about sharing their faith. Their company has an initiative to help Christians find business opportunities to fund their own mission work. The Benhams’ beliefs were never an issue until Right Wing Watch decided to go after them. During an interview with WORLD Radio, David Benham said even HGTV knew about his pre-convention rally comments before the brothers signed a contract for the show.
Now the Benhams find themselves at the center of an increasingly vicious battle over faith in the public square. Other recent victims include Mozilla founder Brendan Eich and sports analyst Craig James. Benham told WORLD Radio the increasing attacks on Christians are galvanizing a call to action: “I believe we are going to show this: that we really want this change in America, and people are not going to remain silent anymore. We’re just tired of getting pushed around. We’re speaking for millions of people.”