Freeman v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
David Freeman was found guilty by jury on one count of disorderly conduct, pursuant to OCGA 16-11-39(a)(1). Freeman attended a church service, whereby instead of praying for teachers and students for a successful start to the school year, Freeman raised his middle finger in the air and stared angrily at the pastor. The pastor testified that he felt afraid for his own safety. As people left the sanctuary, Freeman began yelling about sending children off to the evil public schools and having them raised by Satan. As Freeman yelled, the music minister at the church turned up the music in an effort to drown him out, and Freeman then left the sanctuary. Freeman was later sentenced to twelve months of probation and ordered to pay a $270 fine. On appeal, Freeman contended the statute was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and his conviction, therefore, should not stand. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed Freeman’s conviction, but for different reasons. The Court found Freeman raised his middle finger as a form of protest, and there is no evidence that Freeman engaged in additional threatening conduct that would have elevated his raised middle finger to the level of conveying “fighting words” or a “true threat.” The evidence reveals that he stared angrily at the pastor, but did nothing more while he raised his middle finger in silence from the back of the church. This would not rise to the level of “fighting words” or a “true threat” as a matter of law.