- William Linkhaw attended the Methodist church in Lumberton, North Carolina. He sang hymns very loudly and very poorly.
- This caused various reactions from his fellow churchgoers: some of the church found Linkhaw’s singing funny, while others were offended. At one point, the pastor refused to sing the hymns because of Linkhaw’s singing while the presiding elder refused to preach at all.
- Linkhaw was asked to stay quiet for solemn and serious sermons, but refused to remain silent altogether. As a devout religious man, he responded that “he would worship his God, and that as a part of his worship it was his duty to sing“.
- A Robeson County grand jury handed down a misdemeanour indictment against Linkhaw, charging that he had disturbed the congregation. The case went to trial in August 1872, with Judge Daniel L Russell – a future governor of North Carolina – presiding.
- Judge Russell directed the jury to convict if they determined Linkhaw disturbed the congregation, rather than intend to do so. The jury found Linkhaw guilty and he was fined 1 penny.
- Linkhaw appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
- In a unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court overturned Linkhaw’s conviction.
- While accepting that Linkhaw had caused a disturbance of the congregation, it was noted that the prosecution expressly admitted that there was no intention by Linkhaw to create a disturbance.
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