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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."

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

- CNN Belief Blog

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

soundoff (2,453 Responses)
  1. AverageJoe76

    Ok, I'm a little conflicted with this one. Not sure of the case details (evidence provided/ witness testimony) to conclude that is was a good vs. bad decision. We should never condone violence as a response to free speech. BUT........ I don't support free speech that is intentionally harmful ( and trust me.... saying that is wierd for me because I LOVE free speech, and would not want to be hampered in ANY way). I believe the atheiest knew how much of an outrage that is to Muslims. Basically pushing a button to provoke a hot-button response. Was the Muslim correct to attack? Definitely not. This is actually a story of; "just because I can, does it mean I should...?" I'm not in bed with any religion, but I won't go out of my way to urinate on thier beliefs.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Rickey

      Well said.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Phineas

      Average Joe 76, your statements "I don't support free speech that is intentionally harmful" and "I LOVE free speech and would not want [it] to be hampered in any way" are in conflict. Please decide which you support, as you cannot support both.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Phineas.... I started by stating I was conflicted by this case. I do support free speech. I just don't like the kind that is intentionally/ purposely harmful. Words DO hurt. Everyone knows that. One side of me wants people to speak their minds freely, the other half wants that free expression to go through a "common-sense" filter in the individual's head. It's painfully apparrent I cannot have it both ways. What would happen if the KKK put on a parade through South Side Chicago wearing black face shouting, "get out darkies" or something? I got a feeling it'll be a problem. Is it right they get attacked? Depends on who you ask; the moral one or the lawful one. Sometimes they don't mix, although we'd like them to.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  2. BucketDrop

    Huh, no other witnesses saw this event? The guy wearing the Christian costume didn't see it? The people on the streets didn't see it? Really? Something is fishy with this verdict.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • BabbleOn

      I believe that it's your cologn that you're smelling. 😉

      February 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  3. Nonimus

    I'm confused, the article states:

    "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.'"

    But the AA site linked to in the article says:

    "Hence forth comes the accusations of sensationalist journalism. I guess Judge Martin shouldn’t have said he was one, then. I quote,

    'I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive.'

    Those are his words, as recorded and transcribed."

    February 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Armyguy1209

      Bits of the audio were deleted by the atheist. Martin really said "IF I'm a muslim, I find it offensive."

      February 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I don't think it was edited, but I'm not sure the AA site heard the judge correctly, I'd like to see the court transcript.
      I was only listening to the youtube version, so I may not have the best copy, but what I heard was "[unintelligble] I'm a Muslim, I'd be offended."

      February 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Armyguy1209

      I know for a fact 100% it was edited. This atheist decided to turn everything against the judge because he didn't rule in his favor. It's very easy to tamper with audio. The recorder belonged to the atheist. He recorded it, and he turned everything against Martin. Martin is being criticized so much over everything, and really, he had the balls to make the correct ruling in court. The atheist is now going around like a big baby spreading lies and everything. And no, it's not "I believe" it was edited. it's "I know" it was edited. The judge is actually a Lutheran. He got a chance this morning to tell it how it is.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Armyguy1209,
      Don't be an as.s, please. I'm trying to get facts not wild accusations.

      February 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Army1209,
      p.s. I also agree about the "I'm a Muslim" phrase on the audio, it was garbled, but I didn't sound, to me, like the text version on the AA site.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  4. DrewNumberTwo

    "what kind of person... would do something so offensive and then be supposedly shocked at the result?" Rosa Parks?

    "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." Would it have been okay to rip Rosa Parks' clothes off, as long as her sitting in the wrong seat stressed you out enough? People who are offended don't get special rights to do whatever they want.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  5. Rickey

    I agree with the judge. I am an atheist, but believe that the Jesus was a great moral guide. I also firmly believe in the first amendment rights and our duty to fight for them. I was also in the service in the late 1970's. The judge was correct in his assessment. The jerk was purposely antagonistic. He was not protesting; he was searching for a fight. He was not making any statement other than what an idiot he is. He is lucky the judge didn't nail him for inviting a riot, though would have been a small riot, or disturbing the piece. If there was no evidence to prove this guy did it, he ruled correctly. So the jerk got chewed out. Lets wait for the waaambulance. Dude, put on your big boy pants and get on with life. I doubt that he is a true atheist. That is just an easy excuse for justifying his behavior. Shame on him.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Sam

      Please make rules to tell people what to and what not to wear for halloween. will you?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Rickey

      Wear and do what you want. I don't care. Just don't come whinning to me for consequences suffered for doing something stupid.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Phineas

      Rickey, like so many others, you're asking to have it both ways. Either you support the right of freedom of expression, or you agree that offensive speech (particularly speech YOU find offensive) should be curtailed. Those two positions are mutually exclusive.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  6. Ray

    Islam is based in murder and oppression screw them

    February 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Josh

      obviously you havent read the Koran. i am christian and have read the Koran out of curiosity. please bring facts to the table before spewing lies

      February 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  7. al

    re: want2believe

    Why should he be dismissed?! The outcome of the case had nothing to do with this man's 1st amendment rights.

    "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 commonwealth didn't present enough evidence to show me that this person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt"

    Did you miss that or just choose to ignore it?

    ****

    I read the article. The judge, by his own description of events, lied. He concocted the verdict to cover his bases and sound legal.

    Sounds like you will ignore the truth if the curtain is made opaque.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  8. Reality

    What the judge failed to remember:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

    February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Richard

      Suuuure...and there is nothing violent in the bible.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Sam

      that is the religion of piece?!

      February 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Josh

      So your on the whole – 'IAll Muslims are terrorist' bandwagon" huh? The Koran does not teach terrorism. plain and simple. i am christian and have read the koran out of curiosity. i have many muslim friends also (i suppose that makes me some kind of traitor huh?). Every religion has their 'wackos'. Look at Jim Jones. The people that attacked the US on 9/11 werent true Muslims. they were terrorist that used religion as an excuse to do what they did .

      February 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Reality

      o On the koranic passages and world domination:
      o
      "Mohammed could not have known the size of the world, but several passages in the Koran show that he envisioned Islam dominating all of it, however large it might be: “He it is who sent his messenger . . . that he may cause it [Islam] to prevail over all religions´(Koran 9:33, M.M. Ali; see also 48:28 and 61:9). M.M. Ali designates these three passages as “the prophecy of the ultimate triumph of Islam in the whole world.”

      Mohammed’s successors, the caliphs, quoted passages like these to inspire Muslim armies as they advanced out of Arabia, imposing Islam by the sword upon a peacefully unsuspecting Middle East and North Africa, as I described in the previous chapter.

      Islamic armies, imbued with what Mohammed claimed was divine authorization, imposed Islam by force over vast areas, all the while extorting wealth from subjugated Jews and Christians to fund their ongoing conquests. As I noted, major defeats at Tours, France, in A.D. 732, and again at Vienna, Austria, in A.D. 1683, halted Islam’s attempt to take all of Europe by force. Gradually Islamic forces were forced to retreat from Europe, except for part of the Balkans. But Islam has again set its sights on a conquest of Europe and of European civilization, wherever the latter has spread to North and South America and other regions. Muslim strategists ask their followers, Why do we find in these modern times that Allah has entrusted most of the world’s oil wealth primarily to Muslim nations?

      Their answer: Allah foresaw Islam’s need for funds to finance a final politico-religious victory over what Islam perceives as its ultimate enemy: Christianized Euro-American civilization. So, Islam follows Nazism, fascism and communism as the world’s latest hostile takeover aspirant.

      Nazis, fascists and communists failed. Does Islam have a better chance at success? I believe it will flounder if we awaken to its threat in time; yet, if there is not adequate planned resistance, Islam does have a better chance of succeeding. Communism’s world takeover attempt was guaranteed to fail because its economic policy was naively contrary to human nature. Advocating the rubric What is mine is thine, and what is thine is mine, communism failed to see that human nature will not keep those two balanced propositions in equilibrium. Like

      a female black widow spider consuming her mate, the latter part of the formula makes a meal of the former, leading to the collapse of any system based upon that formula.

      In contrast, political systems do well if they can persuade people to adhere to What’s mine is mine and What’s thine is thine maxims.

      Only if a strong religious incentive is added does such an idealistic formula have any long-term chance. Even then success will be spotty. But communism (and Nazism, for that matter) excluded religion. And that mistake was the final nail eventually clamping a lid on communism’s coffin. Communism, on a historical scale, perished while still in its childhood.

      Islam is not repeating communism’s mistake. Mating political cunning and incredible wealth with religious zeal, Islam does have a chance to succeed and will succeed unless major parts of the Western world unite to take appropriate countermeasures. But many Western leaders, unable to believe that a mere religion could possible be a serious political threat, keep proclaiming themselves as Islam-friendly, reasoning that all religions are good-aren’t they?

      A Muslim strategist in Beverly Hills, California, declared several years ago, as quoted by a friend of mine: “Now that the struggle between Western democracies and international communism is winding down, it is time for the real and final struggle to begin, and we are going to win!”

      Don Richardson

      February 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, it is the Old Testament that lists the god-approved atrocities:

      To wit:

      •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

      •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

      •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
      ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon ("larger than Ai"), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. "He left no survivors."
      ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
      ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

      •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
      •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
      •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
      •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

      •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
      •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

      ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
      ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

      •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
      •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
      •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
      •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

      •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

      The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  9. snowdogg

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

    Oh boo, hoo!

    February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  10. rob

    Judge Martin should be removed from the bench.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  11. Troll Dave

    Jesus and Mohammad are gay lovers everyone knows that!

    February 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Josh

    I think the judge got it right. people siter the 1st ammendment and take it too far. sorry but this amounted to hate speech. i'm a christina but it seems today that everyone thinks its free game to attack, bash muslims. they think "its ok because the muslim religion is a terrorist religion'. this is bull! we all believe in the same God (sorry atheists). this kid was looking for trouble and publicity. it would have been the same if this kid would have walked around Harlem, NY or Compton, Ca. in a Klan outfit shouting 'I hate N*****s" . You think he's not looking for an @$$ whooping?

    February 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Cort

      hey christina-how u doin?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • BRC

      "we all believe in the same God (sorry atheists)" I think every other religion in the world that isn't judaism, Christianity (including Mormonism), and Islam, would like to refute that comment (don't worry, it's only a few thousand denominations of faith with billions of believers).

      Everything else you said was just patently wrong. Words don't equal an invitation for violence unless the expressly say so, just beause someone was offended doesn't make it okay. And the victim din't wander into a mosque wearing a zombie Muhammad costume, he was in a prade of other atheists, don't like atheists, you probably shouldn;t be watching.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Josh

      True – i stand corrected. i was indeed talking about christian, islam, and judaism believing in the same god. sorry in being so general. See i can admit my mistakes 🙂

      February 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Dave

      And guess what?! How many Clam marches in black or Jewish areas have been UPHELD as protected speech, NOT provocative?!! This is just one judge's choice to strike back against atheism. After all, the judge is a Lutheran.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Josh

      ok so its a give and take. christians cant pray in public, have nativty displayed in public, no 10 commandments in public, and an atheist gets punched in the face. lol joking. in reality i dont believe in violence but this kid was just looking for 'you tube' fame. he could care less about atheist rites'.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  13. reason

    Audio of judge's rant where he defends Islam and discusses Shariah law as though it has anything to do with someone's first amendment rights. He goes on to say he is Muslim and is offended by what the victim was doing.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf11F3y9LOE&w=640&h=390]

    February 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  14. BabbleOn

    If some bully like this Perce idiot went up to you and started saying nasty things about your wife with her standing there, and then you punched his lights out, should he be able to hide behind the first amendment? Same thing, only people want to get all stirred up because it involved Islam. The judge did exactly the right thing.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • PGA

      That moniker suits you well ;(

      February 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • BRC

      1- Yes he would, as long as when you ignored him or tried to walk away, or told him to leave you alone first he stopped.
      2- He didn't run up to a Muslim man and start laughing at him, he was walking as part of a group when the man came after him.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • QS

      If the husband assaulted him for expressing his freedom of speech rights, then yes.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • mike w

      If you punch somebody because of something they say, you belong in prison, end of story. You never have the right to put your hands on somebody over words.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      So you are advocating physical violence in return for words of insult? Do you allow your second grader to punch the other second grader's lights out because he was called a poo-head? Really? If so, please learn how to not be this way.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • BabbleOn

      Thanks PGA!
      The other two are prime examples of forgetting what's right while attempting to follow the letter of the law. It's one of the things wrong with our country right now. We're being run by lawyers who write the laws in English that only another attorney can understand or interpret. Freedom of speech was intended to keep those that run the country (potential tyrants) from shutting us up. It was never intended to give us the freedom to insult each other without any retribution. Why anyone can't understand this is a mystery.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Odds

      Actually, yes. It is legal to speak, even when what you have to say is nothing anyone else would like to hear. However, it is not legal to assault another person, no matter what they say to offend you. That's the law. That the atheist was deliberately provoking Muslims is irrelevant.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  15. CBR

    Do we realize that a small incident has been turned into a major incident.
    The judge dismissed the case. He, then, gave his opinion which is his right as much it is our right to our opinions. Let's leave it at that and move on to more important issues facing this country.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Ray From New Orleans

      It is not the judges right or duty to express his personal opinions or beliefs while sitting on the bench ,especially while giving a verdict.Judges are there to make sure due process and a fair and impartial hearing or trial takes place for all those involved.this particular judge's rant on the muslim world based on his views from serving in the military had absolutely no bearing on the case and should not have even been brought up much less used to chastise the victim with. I would suggest that this judge overstepped his bounds and trampled all over the first amendment rights of the victim.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  16. theinfidel2

    Judge Martin failed to see the irony in his own words: "With rights come responsibilities. The more people abuse our rights, the more likely that we're going to lose them," he was referring to the atheist but it is actually more applicable to the Muslim guy – HE is the one who abused our rights and HE should realize it is HIS responsibility to abide by our laws and NOT ATTACK someone whose views are offensive to him. Also, one of the rights lost – lost cuz the judge himself helped it to be lost – was the right to free speech even in cases when such speech is insulting. This judge should be disrobed simply on the basis of his own stupidity.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. QS

    We need an amendment to the first amendment that clearly rewords "freedom of religion" to state "freedom of religion, and from religion"!

    February 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  18. Shane

    Wow, it is amazing how many people here see that Perce said he was attacked and automatically assume it was true. Did nobody else read the article all the way through? The judge dismissed the charges because the plaintiff couldn't supple sufficient evidence to prove there was an attack... for those of you not smart enough to understand, that falls under the phrase "innocent until proven guilty". Perce couldn't prove the attack happened.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • mike w

      Of course there was no evidence. The judge threw it all out – the video tape and the testimony of the arresting officer. The judge had no intention of ever hearing the case and simply wanted to make an example of an upity heathen.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Phineas

      Shane, true; but nothing you have said addresses what some of us see as the more critical point in all this–did the judge trample Pearce's 1st amendment protections when he dressed him down in open court?

      February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Shane

      Phineas – I would say no, Perce was purposefully trying to get a rise out of others, and was doing so by desecrating what a religion holds dear. Why are so many people upset because someone got scolded by a judge for being unprovokedly antogonistic? What happened to having respect for others and the beliefs of others? If you disagree, fine, don't go around trying to belittle them or ridicule them. In my opinion, Perce got what he deserved.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • wilypagan

      Actually it is completely untrue that there was no evidence of physical contact. I have listened to the audio recording of the proceeding which is available on the internet (although Judge Martin tried to prevent its release by threatening the victim with contempt of court). The victim testified as to the physical contact and the officer who interviewed the perpetrator immediately after the incident testified that the perpetrator had admitted the physical contact.

      This judicial official bears careful watching. The time he spent overseas appears to have warped his understanding of American values. Who does he think he is to decide that the victim's expression was not protected under the First Amendment? There was no question of incitement here. The victim was walking in a public place and was approached by the perpetrator, and no one else.

      Muslims, including Judge Martin (listen to the tape of the proceeding), need to learn that old saying we learned as kids "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me". Until Judge Martin re-learns American values, he has no place in this great nation, much less on the bench.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Shane

      The judge didn't need to at all go on about Shariah law, but even then he still wasn't trampeling any 1st amendment rights.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Phineas

      Shane, read very carefully what you have written: "...if you disagree, fine. Don't go around trying to belittle them or ridicule them..." That is precisely what the judge did in open court to the alleged victim. When an agent of the state–in this case, a judge–tells someone his protected actions were wrong, it has what is commonly referred to as having a "chilling" effect on speech, expression, etc. And that is a trampling of rights, rights that very same agent of the state is sworn to uphold.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  19. Caveman

    I will say this. In no way shape or form does this have to do with religion or beliefs. This boils down to "assault". The second that muslim put his hands on that man, for whatever reason "OTHER THAN SELF DEFENSE" it bacame felonious assault, and shame on the judge for allowing it. Secondly, is that to say that if we attend a muslim parade and physically attack someone for their rants, that the person who attacked wouldn't get charged with assault. C'mon... You and I both know that this has nothing to do with religion and has everything to do with the act itself, which was felonious in this country, regardless of the ridicule of a religious figure. They burn the American flag all the time in other countries, so what.. do we beat them down for it? .. No.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. Jen

    This judge should not be a judge for he has issue making good judgement. This is USA, if we can make fun of president, why can't we make fun of Muslim or atheist? Even we do not like to be making fun of, violence is not the solution and be dismissed.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Beth

      Indeed!

      February 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
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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.