ATLANTA — Georgia’s highest court has reversed the conviction of a man who was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after he held up his middle finger and shouted at his pastor during a service.
The unanimous opinion issued Monday says David Justin Freeman’s behavior amounts to speech protected by the First Amendment.
Pastor Jason Berry of 12Stone Church in Flowery Branch, 45 miles (72.42 kilometers) northeast of metro Atlanta, asked teachers to stand for recognition during a service in August 2014. The court’s opinion says Freeman, a homeschooling father, stood and raised his middle finger in the air and then began yelling after the pastor finished his prayer.
A sheriff’s deputy arrived and Freeman was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Berry testified at trial that Freeman’s actions made him scared for his and his congregation’s safety.