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February 28th, 2012
09:46 AM ET

Judge’s dismissal of atheist's harassment claim against Muslim makes waves

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN

(CNN) - A protester who ridiculed the Muslim prophet Mohammed claims he was assaulted by a Muslim who was offended by the stunt, but a judge has sympathized with the alleged perpetrator, in a case that has drawn national attention.

Self-proclaimed atheist Ernie Perce marched in a Halloween parade in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania last October, dressed in a costume mocking Mohammed.

In a YouTube video he posted, Perce can be seen wearing a long fake beard, a white turban and green face paint, calling out provocative phrases like: "I am the prophet Mohammed! Zombie from the dead!" Perce and someone else in a zombie-themed pope costume are carrying a banner that reads "The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania / Ghoulish – Godless – God-Awful."

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Then a man who is not seen on the video can be heard saying, "Take it down." Amid sounds of a scuffle, Perce can be heard saying "Hey, he's attacking me!"

Perce told CNN affiliate WHTM that the man “grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around, to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck."

Based on Perce's complaint, a Muslim named Talaag Elbayomy was charged with harassment. But on December 6, District Judge Mark Martin dismissed the case, saying it was one person's word against another's, and that there was no other evidence or eyewitness testimony to prove that Elbayomy had harassed or touched the alleged victim.

The judge also scolded Perce, saying he’d been needlessly provocative on an issue sensitive with Muslims.

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"You have that right, but you're way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights," Martin said, according to a recording Perce made of the court hearing. "I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did."

The judge went on to point out that in many Muslim countries, ridiculing Mohammed could warrant the death penalty under Islamic law.

Critics say Martin's lecture shows he used Muslim cultural grounds to excuse a deplorable assault, and failed to defend an atheist's First Amendment rights.

"That's greatly disturbing to people that believe in free speech," said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. "You can say things that are hurtful to others. We hope that you don't, but you most certainly can be protected. People like Thomas Paine spent his entire life ticking off people across the colonies."

Former terrorism prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, writing on the blog of National Review, accused the judge of allowing the Muslim suspect to invoke a "Sharia defense – what he claimed was his obligation to strike out against any insult against the prophet Mohammed."

And Perce said of Judge Martin, "He let a man who is Muslim, because of his preference of his culture and his way of life, walk free, from an attack."

The judge, in a phone interview with CNN, defended his ruling.

"The commonwealth didn't present enough evidence to show me that this person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Martin said. "That's why I dismissed the case. Nothing as nefarious as what everyone's thinking, that I'm a Muslim or I'm biased. I'm actually a Lutheran."

Martin added that he has served three tours of duty, totaling more than two years, in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he learned more about Muslim culture.

"It just amazes me that people think that I'm biased towards Islam," he added. "I got sniped at once, I got ambushed once, I got attacked by a mob once... I've served close to 27 years in the military - and have gone overseas - exactly to preserve that right [freedom of speech.]”

But Martin also repeated his criticism of the atheist protester. "With rights come responsibilities. The more people abuse our rights, the more likely that we're going to lose them," he said. " We need to start policing up our own actions, using common sense, in how we deal with others."

Attorney R. Mark Thomas, who represented the Muslim suspect, blamed Perce for the Halloween altercation. "The so-called victim was the antagonist," he told WHTM. "I think this was a good dressing down by the judge."

A blog post by the group American Atheists disagrees. "That a Muslim immigrant can assault a United States citizen,” it says, “in defense of his religious beliefs and walk away a free man, while the victim is chastised and insulted... is a horrible abrogation."

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Halloween • Islam • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (2,453 Responses)
  1. ELH

    The judge is wrong.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Law Student

      No first amendement does not mean you can say what you want excpet what Muslims do not like to hear. THAT IS NOT FREEDOM. That is being subject to Islamic Law. Shame on this judge for such deep lack of understanding of the first amendment and nature of freedom.

      February 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Emily

      Shame on you for claiming that you're a law student! Do you understand the difference between a charge of felony assault and the civil charge of harassment? There is an obvious lack of evidence to prove harassment in this case. As for a law student not understanding the role of the office of court administration in keeping tabs on the decisions that judges make...unbelievable. The OCA stood by this judge's decision, which isn't even quoted in this article.

      The First Amendment does NOT protect "fighting words" or demonstrations of hate. It is not a free pass to say, publish, or depict hateful, bigoted messages.

      Besides, atheism is not about denouncing other people's religious beliefs. Everyone needs to stop making gross generalizations of both atheism and Islam and either educate themselves or stop sharing their bigoted comments on a public forum.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Matt

    So in other words, I can dress up as Zeus, Odin, Thor or any other magical sky daddy that has been invented by man and someone who legitimately believes in them ( and believe it or not, some do!) has the right to assault me? What is the difference between this scenario and the above? what the difference between Zeus, Mohammed or even Jesus for that matter? exactly...nothing.

    Maybe the guy should be a little more weary and not provocative – however this does not give the Muslim an excuse for the assault.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • W247

      "Maybe the guy should be a little more weary and not provocative"

      Have you seen the verbal fistfights that happen here on the Belief Blog on a daily basis? 🙂

      February 28, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Matt, wrap your head around this..... You could be in a Men's Parental Rights march and some woman could come out of the crowd and knock you out.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • BettyWooster

      Forst of all: wary.

      As for the comparison to those other, obscure gods, the difference is that it's a very well-known fact that Muslims are ultra-sensitive (for better or worse) about images of Mohammed. Check out the incredible timeline on Wikipedia for the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon controversy and, of course there is the recent broohaha over the Qur'an burnings.

      My point is – what kind of person, knowing this sort of thing (and we can probably assume that anyone who would go to the trouble of dressing up in that particular costume and parading publicly in it knew exactly what he was doing), would do something so offensive and then be supposedly shocked at the result?

      Finally, try putting yourself in the position of the Muslim guy. Maybe his emotions and beliefs are different from ours, but I find it fairly easy to imagine how stressed out he was. If what he was doing was trying to rip off the guy's costume, not beat on him, it becomes even more understandable.

      What I DON'T understand, on the other hand, is this: with all of the hatred and violence and strife (not to mention the horrifically devastating natural and man-made disasters) happening in the world today, this is the very best thing Ernie Perce could think of to put his time and energy into? Really?

      February 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • BettyWooster

      Laughing at myself: first. 🙂

      February 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Johnny

      Where is the evidence that he was actually assaulted? Oh yes, that's right - there is no evidence, except for his testimony.

      As long as you're defending rights, why not defend the presumption of innocence?

      February 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • medstudent

      @Jonny there is a video of him being assaulted and there were witnesses to the assault. If you look up the actual case you'll see the judge did not acknowledge the tape or witness testimony as evidence.

      This judge should be disbarred.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • naeco

      A Muslim living in our society needs to understand that you do not assault another person because of something he says – not even pretending to be a zombie Muhammad. It's really that simple.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  3. Jennifer

    Actually the atheist's rights were violated on 3 grounds: the issue of free speech, the issue of the assault, and the issue of freedom of religion. Atheists have as much right to rail against Islam – or any other religion – as they want. It isn't a matter of "provoking," it's a matter of marching for what one believes: many atheists believe that religion should be obliterated exactly because of religions like Islam. He was making the point that the Islamic religion is bad; as an atheist that is his belief system.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • BRC

      He gave a pretty solid demonstration of why it's not always great to be right while doing it too.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • TinKnight

      Actually, you're wrong.

      The right to freedom of speech extends to one's interactions with the government, not one's interactions with other people.
      Courts have held up for the entire length of America's existence that the right to free speech does NOT provide the right to hate speech and provoke violence.

      The assault was never proven...that's the WHOLE reason his case was thrown out. Just because he says so doesn't mean it happened...here in America, we don't imprison people just based on heresay (or, at least, we aim not to do so). On a Halloween night when there were lots of people around, not one eyewitness stepped forward in a conservative Christian area and said "Hey, I saw that Muslim do it!"

      As for his freedom of religion...had he just been advocating for atheism, that would've been allowable. However, he was advocating for violence and hatred, which isn't protected.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • byrd1

      It would seem that the Atheist's beliefs were never an issue. This person behaved in a provocative manner – and in the judge's opinion, that provocation exceeded ones 1st Amendment right of free speech (kinda like yelling "fire" in a movie theater). Logically, the assault was a result of the provocation and therefore exhibited under duress. Similar instances have occurred when Fred Phelps pickets at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq/Afghanistan – the pickets are legal (disgusting but legal...) but when they are clearly designed to inflame, then resulting actions are mitigated......

      February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Johnny

      The atheists's rights weren't violated at all.

      There was insufficient evidence that an assault had occurred to proceed with the case. In the absence of evidence, surely the presumption of innocence prevails? Won't you defend that basic right?

      Beyond that, the Judge didn't penalize the atheist for his actions - simply took him to task for publicly making offensive comments. Since the dismissal didn't hinge on that opinion, but rather the lack of evidence, surely you should defend the free speech rights of the judge as well?

      February 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > It would seem that the Atheist's beliefs were never an issue. This person behaved in a provocative manner – and in the judge's opinion, that provocation exceeded ones 1st Amendment right of free speech (kinda like yelling "fire" in a movie theater). Logically, the assault was a result of the provocation and therefore exhibited under duress. Similar instances have occurred when Fred Phelps pickets at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq/Afghanistan – the pickets are legal (disgusting but legal...) but when they are clearly designed to inflame, then resulting actions are mitigated......

      You are ignorant of the law regarding what is acceptable use of the first amendment and you're ignorant of what is permissable under the law. No verbal statement, none, allows the use of physical intervention. If you're black and someone calls you the N word, you aren't allowed to hit them. If you're Islam and someone calls Muhammad a ped, you are not allowed to attack them. If you are a white and someone calls you a cracka, you are not allowed to attack them.

      The reality here is that the "dressing down" was misplaced. He should have directed his comments to the Islamic man telling him that he doesn't have the right to not be offended and that he should grow a thicker skin.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Beyond that, the Judge didn't penalize the atheist for his actions – simply took him to task for publicly making offensive comments. Since the dismissal didn't hinge on that opinion, but rather the lack of evidence, surely you should defend the free speech rights of the judge as well?

      So a Judge criticized a person for exercising his/her first amendment rights. What a reasonable response from someone who is supposed to defend the law. 🙂

      February 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      byrd1, if that were the case then the Supreme Court would not have supported Westboro's right to be about as offensive as humanly possible in extremely sensitive environments(funerals). Also, this is clearly a case of the government getting involved in this man's freedom of speech. It was not a freedom of speech issue until a judge pretty much let the victim know that his speech was not up to the judge's standards for public discourse. It was none of the judge's business since it was clearly protected speech by all known standards. ( including the judge's since he did not charge him with inciting a riot or some such).
      The judge just clearly described his personal bias showing why he should have recused himself instead of deciding the merits of the case.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      TinKnight, hate speech IS protected by the 1st Amendment and the "provoking violence" rule has to do with provoking violence against others, not yourself. The victim was well with in his rights and his a.ssailant was just that and a.ssailant.
      I agree that if the judge threw out the case based strictly on a lack of evidence then there is no problem. However, his objectivity here is on doubt because in his own words he blamed the victim for any possible a.ssault based on the victims legal activities. His bias is now well docu.mented.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      I thought Atheism wasn't a form of religion but an absence of any? If that's the case, it eliminates one of your positions since you can't bash religion in the public square and then invoke the protection of it. I agree with the other 2.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • God's Child

      You know, I would agree that his first amendment rights were violated, if that were truly the case. The first amendment gives the right to free speech, but doesn't give you the right to incite a "riot" persay. And in essence, that's what he was doing, asking to get his butt kicked. Does that make his getting his butt kicked right? No, of course not, but there was no evidence of the assult. You have to have proof in order to win your case. So the judge had no choice BUT to dismiss it. There's such a thing as prudence when it comes to free speech. Maybe that guy should have thought to himself, is dressing up like a Muhammed zombie and walking the streets holding up an atheist sign really a smart thing to do? Probably not. What he did was nothing short of insulting to someone elses belief system. Hate speech. That's unacceptable, regardless who the target was. I think the judge did the right thing. We shouldn't promote or protect downright ignorance. If the guy actually had something intelligent to say against Islam, in the proper forum, that's a different story. This guy was just trying to upset people and stir up controversy. There's nothing intelligent about that.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Johnny

      The Bobinator - It is absolutely right to take someone to task when they are being offensive for the sake of being offensive.

      He didn't charge him with a crime, or penalize him in any way. He scolded him for behaving like a jerk publicly, and pointed out that similar behavior elsewhere carries much more significant consequences. Trying to get someone so juvenile to understand that actions have consequences, that rights also carry responsibility, is absolutely appropriate for an officer of the court.

      Why would you discourage civility, or support intransigence?

      February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Cyrus

      TimKnight is absolutely right. People keep misrepresenting and misinterpreting the First Amendment however the please.

      Yes, the government is not allowed to silence anyone and everyone has the right to exercise free speech, but there are plenty of provisions and legal precedence that indicate that if exercising one's free speech ends up in a riot and/or public safety concerns, then authorities have the right to stop people from exercising such provocative and inciting speeches.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  4. Matt

    So in other words, I can dress up as Zeus, Odin, Thor or any other magical sky daddy that has been invented by man and someone who legitimately believes in them ( and believe it or not, some do!) has the right to assault me? What is the difference between this scenario and the above? what the difference between Zeus, Mohammed or even Jesus for that matter? exactly...not

    February 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • nirmalasuman

      You can, but you should remember what Winston Churchill said about your freedom of action/speech. "Your freedom ends where my nose begins." Besides please pay attention to the reason of the judge for dismissing the case. He says insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution. He is duty bound not only to uphold your right under the First Amendment, but also to uphold the fundamental law that there should be sufficient evidence to convict any one. Besides how could you accuse the judge of partisanship, a judge with such exemplary background? Pandering to present public opinion is not what is justice is all about. For that a lynch mob will do. nirmala@sify.com

      February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Evidence is the province of the judge. A.ssigning blame to a victim based on their legal behavior is bias.

      Next time you are assaulted because your costume offends someone please feel free to su.ck it up.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  5. Joe

    All religions are a waste of time. There is no god people, grow up...

    February 28, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • W247

      Please let us know when you have something to contribute to the topic of the conversation. The question here is not about whether or not there is a god, it is whether or not this judge should rule as he did.

      thanks

      February 28, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Law Student

      Be careful, you don't wanna offend a muslim by being free and expressing yourself.

      February 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  6. JohnR

    The judge should be impeached.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  7. Joe T.

    It was pretty much a case of he-said, she-said. There was really no evidence to back up claims. You can't send someone to jail with no evidence.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • JohnR

      Tell that to the cop who made the arrest.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Dude

      Exactly.

      If there is no evidence, or not enough, through the case out and say "There is not enough evidence to convict".

      The judge's opinion on Islam and Atheism are not relevant.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Greenspam

      JohnR: Arrest by cops does not prove guilt or not. Cops are not judges.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Joe T.

      Doesn't sound like he was arrested by a cop who witnessed it. Sounds like it was just a claim that was made and he was charged later based on the claim.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • neoritter

      If you go watch the video, you'll see the Atheist says he left the parade to file charges. No arrests on the scene were made.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Kim

      Actually, the atheist had the altercation caught on his cell phone, but the judge refused to allow it as evidence.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Joe

    Outrageous! What happened to freedom of expression? We might as well turn the damned country over to these towelheads.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • cold hard facts

      Don't worry we are protected by the relilgious riech

      February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  9. HaHaHa

    Typical Muslim crap. We ain't seen nothing yet, you libbies get your puppet re-elected and we will all be answering to muzlim judges.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • JohnR

      Nonsense.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • JohnR

      utter nonsense.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Thinkstr8

      Really? That is your response? Blame libbies and blame it all on Obama to boot? You should never have gone off the Valium!

      February 28, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      I'm sure you would be incensed if the defendent belonged to one of the loony churches that are protesting funerals of our soldiers. You must be a Santorum supporter.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • HaHaHa

      Dang the truth hurts!

      February 28, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • BRC

      You mean the puppet that had a Muslim Extremist leader assassinated? The same one who hands out drone fired missiles like they're informational pamphlets. I don't agree with Obama on everything, and I never thought he was the absolute answer to what this country needs, but his policies are actually pretty good, and if the government could stop bickering like 6 year olds for a few days, some o his ideas could really benefit the nation. You want to be mad at someone, hate congress, they 98% suck.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  10. boocat

    This judge is an idiot. The person dressing up as Mohammed is an idiot The Muslim who punched the guy is an idiot. THIS COUNTRY IS FULL OF IDIOTS.

    February 28, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Joe T.

      Probably the smartest comment ever made on these boards.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Dude

      Breeding should be more difficult.

      Stupid should hurt, then we would avoid it.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • avacon

      We're all idiots, it's just a matter of degree...

      February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Salero 21

      I agree that the muslim and so was the person mocking his religion behaved like idiots. However I don't think the Judge is an idiot. Neither is the country Full of idiots, at least Not yet.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • richard rickert

      right on

      February 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • cold hard facts

      it's not abou tidiost but hte guy who is athiest expressing h9is rights and the count5ry not defending themmmmmm!!!!!

      February 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Dee

      amen

      February 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  11. I'm The Best!

    Apparently its legal to attack someone who makes you angry now. Next time a Christian tries to convert me, I'm punching them in the face. I doubt I'll be let off as easy as this Muslim

    February 28, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Interesting, and when the next time a Atheist calls God the same as Santa Claus and the Christian beats him down?

      We are going open season on each other... I guess that is where this is all heading.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ mark,
      Hey, I mean, according to this judge, it should be allowed.

      If it's against your religion, feel free to attack it. Would give Christians free range on gays, and well..... anyone who isn't a white christian straight male.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Salero 21

      What if the christian is having a really, really bad day and punches you back. Your comment proved boocat right. The country is becoming full of idiots. The fact that so many people like you, cannot discern and notice the difference between mocking someones religion, knowingly that to them is important and just talking about a religion. Proves the point I made. A Nation that is becoming Full of idiots and is already FULL of Perverts and mockers.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ Salero,
      You would knowingly make a mockery of my religion, or lack thereof, by trying to convert me and implying that mine is wrong. I'm not saying it should be legal, but this judge seems to think so. I agree that this country is being overrun by idiots, the problem here is though that one of those idiots somehow became a judge.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I'm – Just do not think that this means that Christians can attack, this ruling opens the door for all. Do not be like some of the Muslims and be so narrow minded and think that you think that it is just going to effect Atheist.

      All of us, fall into various groups and if any of these groups are openly active then one day they might find them marching in the face of the opposition.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ Mark,
      I know it opens this to everyone. It's just that Christians are so open about who they hate in this country that it's an easy go-to. But yes, this ruling opens it up to everyone.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Johnny

      The case was dismissed because of a lack of evidence, not because of the Judge's opinion about the actions of the atheist.

      The Judge, in acknowledging that the atheist has the right to such offensive speech, exercised his own right and took him to task for being a jerk.

      You can try to politicize this, but the truth is that the atheist didn't have the evidence to back up his claim.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      "You have that right, but you're way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights," Martin said, according to a recording Perce made of the court hearing. "I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to pi.ss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did."

      This judge would appear to be clearly trying to set new limits on the 1st Amendment which SCOTUS does not agree with. If the judge had merely told him that his actions reflected poor judgment then he would have been giving pretty good advice, but he went way beyond that to say "you're way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights". Even though he had just said he was within his rights. So either the judge just could not hide his bias or he is stupid. I doubt he is stupid.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Cyrus

      Obviously, you didn't read the article or have limited reading abilities. The case thrown out because of lack of evidence, including from the arresting officer, and not because the judge favors this Muslim guy.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    From the article:
    "The commonwealth didn't present enough evidence to show me that this person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Martin said. "That's why I dismissed the case.

    I would imagine people are found not guilty, all over the nation, due to not being able to meet the reasonable doubt criteria.

    I think it stupid to be dressing up as personages, that a religious group hold as sacred. If I dressed up as Jesus and spouted insults, I wouldn't be surprised if someone didn't punch me. Some things, you just shouldn't do. It does nothing to persuade people that their religious views are wrong. It just pis_ses people off.

    But, if the Muslim fellow did punch the protester, then he was wrong. Odd, how Muslims always choose violence as a problem solver. Kinda makes it hard to believe that "Religion of Peace" slogan.

    Cheers!

    Cheers!

    February 28, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The judge expressed a strong bias so his decision about the level of evidence is questionable at best. Also, if you look in our jails you will find that the vast majority of violent offenders will self-identify as Christian. Violence is a human problem. Religion is sometimes just another bad excuse.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • hippypoet

      MarkinFL, i would argue your use of the word sometimes... it is always an excuse, if i claimed belief in anything as the reason for an act of anything i am placing responibility on the belief and not on me! it was me would choose to believe that in the first place, it was me who did the act, and it was me who claimed such !

      its always an excuse! god made me do it! good, god made me kill you! now we are even! 🙂 lol

      February 28, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • fintastic

      Remember Flip Wilson as Geraldine?

      "The devil made me do it" ...... same crap.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • David Johnson

      @MarkinFL

      I have seen this statistic used by non-believers to "prove" Christians commit more crimes than non-believers.

      I see a problem with it:

      Was the inmate a Christian at the time of his crime, or did he find Jesus in prison? There are many advantages for an inmate to "come to Jesus", in the penal system: Judges; parole boards, etc.

      So, if someone just did a head count of "Christians" in a prison, there would be a big bias.

      To have meaning, you would have to record the beliefs of the inmates at the time of their crimes.

      Cheers!

      February 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • LinCA

      @MarkinFL, @David Johnson

      It is also a well known fact that atheists are much smarter than the general population. It is therefor very likely that they are simply better at evading arrest or conviction. 😉

      February 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Martha

    The judge should be disbarred. Absolutely horrible judgement. Free speech is free speech whether you like it or not. The last time I looked we live in a Republic, not a theocracy.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Martha

      You said: "The last time I looked we live in a Republic, not a theocracy."

      And may it always be so, Martha. The Christian Right and their champion Rick Santorum would establish a theocracy. They hate the separation of church and state clause in the const_itution.

      If you love your freedom, believe in contraception and prenatal care and woman's health then vote for the Dems in 2012. We need to show the Christian Right that we have no interest in Christian domination.

      Cheers!

      February 28, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      Or vote Ron Paul. He isn't a crazy religious nut AND he won't give all your money to someone who doesn't feel like working.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • OKC_Guy

      To David Johnson.....and what clause do you beleiv saya "seperation of church and state", your ignorance is showing. There is no such clause.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • MarkinFL

      You are right, there is no such clause. However, there is also not one single mention of a god in the Consti.tution and the only reference to religion is that the people are free to worship as they please and the government will not get involved. Pretty much shoots down anything Sanctorum wants to do.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • BettyWooster

      In what sense is Ron Paul not a religious nut? I actually really like him and find him to be highly intelligent and articulate, but he does have a shelf-ful of tinfoil hats in his closet, one of which has a direct beam to God.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  14. I'm The Best!

    When I first read this article on a different site, it said that the Muslim admitted to the attack saying that he didn't know it was against the law. This ruling was wrong and the judge should be disbarred

    February 28, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • sarah

      He denied it in court. I think if the evidence had been a lot stronger, there would have been a conviction. I don't think the judge has a problem with putting a Muslim away. But the evidence must be without a doubt, for everyone if there is to be any justice in this world.

      February 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  15. George C

    Atheists, watch out! Next time you dare wear a Halloween costume that is offensive to any religion be prepared to be asssaulted. Justice will be one way and defintely not in your favor 😉

    February 28, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Case Laws

      Can we set the precedence based on this ruling.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Frankly, the Supreme Court has already ruled that offensive speech is protected. Most recently and relevantly with regard to Westboro. This judge should never be allowed to be involved in a case where speech is involved. He was clearly biased while making his decision to throw out the case, supposedly based only on the lack of evidence.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • W247

      Mark – you bring up a great point about the Westboro thugs, can this be applied to their hate filled provoking protests?

      February 28, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I would say that this is in the same stream as Westburo Baptist. The ridicule and insults are protected but at the same time if someone feels that strongly that he needs to physically strike at someone then they should be standing there waiting and proud to go to jail for it.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • MarkinFL

      That was a Supreme Court ruling it IS precedence, with a capital P. This idiot judge needs to learn a bit more about our Const.itution. ..

      February 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • sarah

      Make sure you have more than one camera and actually capture the assault.

      February 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  16. hippypoet

    i can see both sides and i think having only what the judge was prevy to i would have came to the same conclusion...however, i said i see it from both sides...the judge doesn't – he is a believer and therefore is biased on the grounds of belief in the same god as the attacker. I'm not saying that had anything to do with his choice, just a biased ground to stand on. I am in no way saying that i think atheists should have our own judges and you believers with yours, NO.... what i am saying is religion is a part of some people lives and not a part of others and so shouldn't play even the smallest role in a court room. I think the atheist was asking for something to happen, parading around thinking it wouldn't is just stupidity in motion! Religion is something people are willing to kill over, one should always keep that in mind when bashing any of the many belief systems this world has contrived. 🙂

    February 28, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Absolutely, he should be unsurprised by a confrontation. However, we should all be surprised that a judge approves of an assault based on anger (righteous, or otherwise). This is just good old fashioned "blame the victim" justice. Girls wouldn't get ra.p-ed if they dressed less provocatively you know!

      February 28, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  17. Brad

    Perhaps people are now free to deal with the Westboro Baptist Church crowd in like fashion. They really piss people off.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • crabman

      you could get a bus load pretty easy

      February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  18. Robert

    It took long enough for this to make it to CNN.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  19. MarkinFL

    The only reasonable part of the judge's statements involved lack of proof of the accused actions. Motive should never have entered into it. Since when is anger a defense for assault?
    "I'm sorry judge, but the victim just made me so mad I had to punch her!" Well, I understand, I would have been mad too! Case dismissed!"

    What a load of hooey!

    February 28, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • John in WNY

      What your overlooking is basically after dismissing the charges for lack of evidence all the judge did was tell this man "just because you can do/say something doesn't mean you should."

      Could he have been more succinct? Sure, but I doubt that most people objecting to this would do so if it was in a a non-religious context. For example, the westboro baptist church members have the right to demostrate as they do, but how many people here would claim that it is right for them to do so?

      February 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  20. Hey Keith-there is your article!
    February 28, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Keith

      Well, I'll be darned!

      February 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Keith

      Look at all the comments-on weekday, nonetheless. This example of Sharia Law needs to be nipped in the bud or it will only encourage more of the same. What would have the judge done had the defendant killed the atheist?
      I do commend cnn for covering the story. Thank you.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.