Just in case your church pastor got a little too preachy against Donald Trump during the last service or went a little overboard telling people how important your offering was and you want to flip them the bird, it’s good to know you’re safe to do that, at least in Georgia.
The State Supreme Court reversed a conviction for disorderly conduct against a man who gave the middle finger to his pastor, ruling his behavior was protected speech under the First Amendment.
The whole incident started during Sunday service back in August 2014 at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville. Toward the end of the service, Pastor Jason Berry asked all the teachers in the congregation to stand up and be recognized, asking everyone to pray for them for a successful year. About 50 teachers stood up.
Doesn’t sound like too big a deal and a pretty heartwarming gesture. But not to David Justin Freeman. He homeschools his kids and apparently has no love for the local school system. He stood up and raised his middle finger, staring angrily at the pastor. “Don’t send your kids to the evil public schools. Don’t let Satan or the devil raise your kids,” he shouted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Freeman “shouted over the large congregation, ‘It’s your responsibility to raise your own children, and it is a sin to give them to a godless government,’” Freeman told the state’s Supreme Court justices in May as he appealed his conviction, The Gainesville Times reports.
Freeman characterized Berry’s service as praising the school system “in spite of the erroneous things that they’re doing” and “essentially making a mockery of the children who are struggling in these schools.”
As a volunteer minister to the youth, he argued to the justices it was his “responsibility to defend” children from being mocked.
The church’s music minister turned up the music to try to drown Freeman out, and Berry followed Freeman to speak with him in the lobby of the church, where he told him they should have had a private conversation instead of Freeman shouting in church.
Pastor Berry testified that he was “frightened” by Freeman’s behavior and called the police. A Sheriff’s Deputy came out and arrested Freeman, charging him with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He was later convicted, sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $270 fine.
All for flipping the bird in church.
In a unanimous opinion, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned Freeman’s conviction.
He could not be found guilty under the disorderly conduct statute, Justice Harold Melton wrote, “because there was no showing here that Freeman’s act of silently raising his middle finger from the back of the church during the church service constituted ‘fighting words’ or a ‘true threat’ that would amount to a tumultuous act.”
“The alleged obscene gesture in this case was the raising of Freeman’s middle finger from the back of the church,” the court said in its ruling. “However, a raised middle finger, by itself, does not, without more, amount to fighting words or a true threat.”
What do you think? Is giving your pastor the middle finger free speech? Sound off below!
H/T: Fox News