Preachers who burned pride flags convicted
December 16 2003 12:00 AM ET
Two Ohio street preachers have pleaded no contest to charges of burning a gay pride flag at a parade more than two years ago. Charles Spingola and Thomas Meyer were convicted in Franklin County environmental court and were fined $100 each for the misdemeanor charge of burning without a permit. The plea deal, reached last week, allows both men to keep from admitting guilt without challenging the facts of the case. Both men said that although they are happy the case is resolved, they're dissatisfied with the resolution. "A lot of police and politicians' hearts fail them, and they buckle to the homosexual lobby," Spingola said after the plea. "That's why this has dragged on for so long." Added Meyer: "Everyone is allowed to burn an American flag but not a homosexual one."
The men, both of Newark, Ohio, at the time of the incident, burned a rainbow flag at the Gay Pride Parade in downtown Columbus in September 2001. An officer warned one of them that they needed a permit before lighting a match. Then-environmental court judge Richard Pfeiffer ruled that part of the city's fire code was unconstitutional. He said the law prohibited free expression. The 10th Ohio district court of appeals overturned Pfeiffer's ruling in March. Pfeiffer is now city attorney in charge of the office that challenged his opinion.