The South Carolina Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a street preacher who was arrested and fined after screaming anti-gay epithets at a lesbian couple.
Greenville Circuit Judge Edward Miller had previously upheld Joseph D. Bane’s 2008 conviction, but the Supreme Court said a city rule against remarks that “humiliate, insult or scare” was too vague. All five of the court’s justices also agreed there was no evidence to convict Bane under other provisions of the ordinance. According to the opinion handed down Monday, Bane was fined $200 after preaching loudly against homosexuality in downtown Greenville and, according to testimony, calling two women “faggots” who would “burn in hell.” Bane’s attorney, Samuel Harms, said the ruling means residents can once again “preach against homosexuality without the fear of being arrested by a city police officer.” Harms said the city should have realized its ordinance was unconstitutional and voluntarily dismissed the case.
City attorneys say the state Supreme Court ignored local ordinances on disturbing the peace. The ACLU says that while it “abhors” the preacher’s message, it supports the high court’s decision.