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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. Aaron

    The judge obviously disagrees with the concept of using language and free speech to upset the apple cart – and that we have that right.

    I'm sure he thinks it's common sense not to stand out in front of a church in protest of religion. To him, that would just be stirring things up and causing problems. But, you can see where someone who thinks that way would also think that refusing to sit in the back of a bus is provocative and problem causing. Marching through the streets with signs that read, "No More Back of the Bus for Us!" would have been pretty provocative at one point in history.

    Free speech isn't just there to protect people who don't rock the boat. It's there to make sure people who are offended by your speech don't jump out of a crowd and try to choke you for it. And if someone does attack you for the things you've said, then we prosecute the attacker; you don't lecture the guy doing the protesting about being a good citizen and not rocking the boat. This judge isn't a very good one if these are the kinds of decisions he makes.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Bob A.

    Ernie Perce claims he is an atheist, but he is in fact an anti-theist. Anti-theists give us atheists a bad rep. Live and let live, believe or not believe. It's all the same to us.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Matt

      I feel like he was more a jokester, but that is just me. Sometimes, I forget that people still believe in this suff, so I sometimes say or do something that could be seen as offensive, because I am used to being able to speak my mind to the people I know... I think that he was both a jokester and unaware of his surroundings, but I do agree with you about anti-theists

      February 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      If Perce is an anti-theist, good for him! You wishy-washy atheists who merely claim god doesn't exist give us anti-theists a bad name.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Matt

      I am more of an "atheism 2.0" kind of guy... Or as Alain de Bottom on TED refers to

      February 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  3. Mike from Calgary

    The victim of the assault should APOLOGIZE to the Muslim who assaulted him, or else!

    February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  4. batteryinme

    Then-for Allah's sake (or any other made up deity/prophet), someone PLEASE shoot those Christian idiots who parade around at service men and women's funerals and spout nonsense about our military and our nation-it offends me, so I guess they can be killed (if there are no witnesses!).

    February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Justin H

    As an atheist, I don't have an issue with the judge's ruling or comments – as explained in this article. Dismissing the case for lack of evidence has nothing to do with infringing on First Amendment rights. And I don't believe the First Amendment specifically protects someone from harm when they are intentionally instigating or provoking others.

    Of course the First Amendment does not protect anyone from being offended by others exercising their own rights. But that is a separate issue from a person abusing their own rights.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • JohnR

      Your understanding of free speech is pathetic.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Aaron

      I disagree. I think the judge's lecture about not stirring things up and telling the guy that with free speech comes responsibility, shows the judge's mindset. I think it colored his decisions making. It sounds to me that he felt both of them had done something wrong and he was therefore dismissing the whole thing. His little speech about not common sense says he thinks the protestor shouldn't have been out there provoking people. I would say that shows he was influenced to overreach on his reasonable doubt objections. It sounds like it was obvious to him what happened. By admitting the protestor had stirred things up, by saying the protestor was (essentially) are outside the bounds of what the founders intended for free speech; he was saying he understood the other guy was upset and provoked, which means he probably knows the guy did something about being provoked. In other words, the judge knows what happened, but he thinks both of them are to blame, but that just isn't the case.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  6. showtime

    I think someone should go back and check on this judges record. I am a criminal defense attorney and I have a problem with this. I guarantee that this judge does not throw out every case where it is one person's word against another. If he is consistent then good for him, but I would literally bet a million dollars that he isn't. Look on the judges calender and pick a domestic battery, any domestic batter, I assure you that it will involve one man and one woman, and I also assure you that the judge will not be dismissing it for lack of evidence. This judge is a joke and it sounds like someone needs to run against him. The platform is already set. Also this victim should file a civil suit against this towel head and one against the town for failing to protect him.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      your entire comment was negated by the use of the term "towel head"...if you are an attorney, then you are a horrible one

      February 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • momoya

      ...Unless you think assault is a reasonable response to speech, call and voice your opinion, now!

      Call the judge's office now:

      717-240-7864 << live operator

      717-766-4575 << leave message

      February 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • showtime

      sockpuppet...you just proved my point. You think someone ideas are worthless because they may not share the same feelings as you. And yes when your brother is killed by one, you're allowed to call them towel-heads, just like I'm calling you retarded.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      oh I see that somehow makes it ok to be a racist

      February 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • sarah

      Sure, file a civil suit.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  7. sockpuppet

    I would just like to point out that the horrible cultish religion that protests funerals of gays and soldiers etc, have the right to do so, and when they do, people often drive by and throw things at them and even hit them, but how often do you hear of anyone defending them or charging the offenders with assault? It doesn't happen, because nobody likes to defend hate speech. This atheist guy was marching down the street using hate speech, so it isn't surprising someone is going to get angry. You may have the legal right to be hateful and announce it to the world, it doesn't mean that people have to stick up for you and defend you.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mike Speakman

      Free speech is absolute, if you don't like it leave.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • michaelwg

      two wrongs don't make a right. Just because something is prevalent doesn't make it right. Lawyers defend you, judges are supposed to be impartial.
      Those individuals you mentioned have in fact gone to court, and they were in fact NOT fined, and the parents of the dead child who were at the funeral had to pay the court fees for taking that group to court. fyi

      February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      they went to court to protect their freespeech, not to deal with an assault case. That is an entirely different case. I am not saying the man doesn't have the right to speech, he does. I', just saying, I personally am not going to go out and defend the KKK's point of view either. I wasn't talking about the legality, as I clearly said he has the right to do it.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • PMGEM

      You should check your facts. That horrible cultish religion that you referred to, is almost entirely supported by law suits brought against people who attack them during their protests. They purposly try to incite people to attack them so they can sue, then also claim religious persecution to get more money.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  8. michaelwg

    "The commonwealth didn't present enough evidence to show me that this person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Martin said.
    Yea, because he wouldn't allow the video to be shown. Or the police officer to give testimony. This guy should be disbarred.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • James

      One would assume then you have evidence of this you can share with us?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • michaelwg

      The video that was put up on youtube was mentioned in the article.
      The rest you can google, i'm not your librarian.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • James

      The burden of proof is left to the accuser. The video shows that not only did the police officer fail to produce a written statement, but Perce has also failed to appeal the decision. Sorry friend since you couldn't provide me this video that's what I found. Also I'm equally not your stooge, to believe whatever it is you say.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • sarah

      The video shows nothing. You hear a guy yelling briefly off camera before going back to his chanting. You don't see the attack. The witnesses are all members of the part of the parade that set out to provoke people. The evidence is suspect. We can't tell what actually happened.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  9. Balanced99

    Someone please reply!

    There's so many posts from atheists who say there discriminated against. I'd like to learn how? Please respond.

    I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm not religious in any way and undecided whether or not I believe in god. I try to study a bit of each religion and respect people's right to practice theirs – so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

    How is it that atheists feel they're discriminated against – I'd simply like to learn.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • sarah

      The atheist had to listen to a lecture.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • michaelwg

      Go on youtube. Type in Rick Santorum. He's running for President. fyi.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Hitchens

      The average atheist lies like a rug. There is no credibility in atheism.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jesus

      "The average atheist lies like a rug. "

      The log in your eye is making you blind to your sin of lying.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • momoya

      It's tough to explain. Let me put it this way. You don't get offered a promotion, but somebody not nearly as competent (but an avid believer) gets it instead. People who used to be friends don't call or come by or act like friends; when you call or go by or act like a friend, it's treated with disdain and disgust. It's clear that believers consider you a second-class citizen. People will start arguments with you about god's existence, and then when you reply very nicely and with utmost respect, they claim some weird offense or other and stomp off talking about how you should die and go to hell. Instead of asking how you see something, they assume that you worship satan or are some deviant se.x offender or the like.

      I suspect that if you want to see what it's like, tell people you're now a muslim jihadist. I think you'd get about the same reaction as I describe–maybe not quite so bad because you still aren't "stupid enough" to disbelieve in a god.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Balanced99

      Sarah – A person had to listen to a lecture. Based on the judge's comments, I think the lecture would have came regardless of what their beliefs are. I'm not saying the judge was right in his actions – nor may you be correct in thinking it was done because the person was an atheist.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      momoya that sounds like the exact opposite of my experience. I lived the last decade within a highly atheist community, and they constantly treated anyone who were of any religion as stupid and unworthy of any conversation. I have many of those people on my facebook feed and they post comments all day ridiculing the religious, outright saying they are mentally disabled, wanting them "wiped off the face of the earth" etc etc. Whereas my religious friends mostly tend to post Bible verses about love and peace. That is not to say that there is a very vocal minority of screwed u p religious people making a bad name for the rest of us. But your experience is not mine. I am tired of atheists immediately dismissing the religious as brain dead and/or insane and hypocritcally behaving like the very horrible people they despise (the extremist fundamentalists)

      February 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Hitchens

      When an atheist ceases to lie an atheist ceases to be an atheist.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      "When an atheist ceases to lie an atheist ceases to be an atheist."

      The log in your eye is making you blind to your sin of lying.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Dawkins

      Religious people insisting that their own views and beliefs shape our country's laws for one thing.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • momoya

      @ Sockpuppet

      I think you may be exaggerating. When I was a believer, I had several atheist friends, and they told me how bad it was to be an atheist in the south-I did NOT believe them one bit. I found out that they were 100% correct the day I began telling others that i was now atheist. Maybe we should switch locations.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • TickTockMan0

      No less than George H. W. Bush (the older, and arguably smarter one) said that he did not believe that atheists should be considered citizens or patriots. Had he said that about about Christians or Jews, I am sure there would have been a firestorm of protest. Bigotry at its best.

      The Boy Scouts of America has prohibited membership to boys on the grounds of atheism.

      All over the U.S., religious fanatics continue to try to lead christian prayers in public schools. Apparently praying at home or at church is not enough. Why should an atheist child have to

      And every time I use money I have to see the totally gratuitous phrase "In God We Trust." The Pledge of Allegiance had "under God" shoehorned into it in 1954. Despite the fact that the U.S. was founded as a secular country, the religious fanatics keep at it and at it.

      No one in this country should feel like a second-class citizen, but I sure do.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  10. gracster

    Quote of a lifetime–"With rights come responsibilities". If you don't understand that then you don't deserve the rights.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • smitvict

      Agree, the responsibility to realize others do not share their religious views. The judge was correct in dismissing the case. Otherwise, anyone who makes negative statements about the religion of another could be charged. This is NOT a muslim country. You cannot shoot someone for burning a koran (one marked up which is a violation of the koran by the way). You cannot assault someone for "mocking" your religion. You cannot arrest someone for putting a statue of Mary in a jar of urine (remember the flap about that one).

      February 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jeremy

      So whats next? A woman wearing a skirt will be beaten because a Muslim is offended? You can picket a soldiers funeral but you can't wear a Mohammed costume? Give me a break. Maybe Muslims (not all of them; a number of them are good people) should learn to control themselves and not be mindless idiots who use religion to cover their violent actions.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      Responsibilities, yes. Responsibilities to not physically attack someone who insults you or your religion. There is no reason I should not insult someone or their religion. If they don't like it, they can argue back and insult me all they want.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  11. EnjaySea

    If there wasn't enough evidence, then the decision sounds reasonable to me. Not that I have any particular interest in placating the delicate sensibilities of muslims. I'm an atheist, but I'm not up in arms just because an atheist lost a court battle. Like wow, when has that every happened...?

    February 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Hitchens

      It should happen in every case. An atheist is a known liar.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Jesus

      "An atheist is a known liar."

      Lying is a SIN and so is passing judgment!

      February 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Hitchens

      Then the judge passed the right judgement.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Then the judge passed the right judgement."

      Your prejudice makes you blind – the faults you see in other people are the faults you have within yourself. You must stop lying so much.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Hitchens

      If an atheist ceases to lie an atheist ceases to be an atheist.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Nope

      -The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • nope

      nope

      February 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • LOL!

      More desperation from the xtians with no facts to back themselves up. Too funny! LOL! LOL!

      February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • TickTockMan0

      Repeating something does not make it true.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven .

      February 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • nope

      nope.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things
      Proven ."

      The experts have proven you wrong – Prayer doesn't work! LMAO!

      February 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      February 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things"

      Again the experts have proven you WRONG! LOL!

      February 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven
      Powerful

      February 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things
      Proven
      Powerful"

      Lying is a sin and it's been proven it's all a waste of time.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven
      Powerful
      Productive

      February 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things
      Proven
      Powerful
      Productive"

      Continuing to choose to lie proves the experts are right and prayer is a waste of time.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  13. kdk2012

    The First Amendment clearly states that the US Government may NOT restrict freedom of speech. Yet over the past two centuries judges like this idiot have repeatedly chipped away at our rights. The Founding Fathers never said is was wrong to insult some other culture.

    If there was insufficient evidence of a crime, then charges should have been dropped. But his additional comments about the First Amendment were way out of line. The judge should be censured.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • sarah

      The judge was exercising his free speech. lol. He didn't punish him in any way. I think the atheist can safely blow him off. I think turning the tables and forcing him to listen to something he doesn't want to hear is actually a little bit funny.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Nick

      what about the judges free speech? hmm? he was just speaking his mind after he decided there was not enough evidence

      your comment is an Oxymoron

      February 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  14. Matt

    My girlfriend and I are both very happy atheists and if some religious guy attacked her for atheism, and the judge did this to her? Oh I would be taking this to the Supreme Court, no doubt about it! It saddens me that atheists are treated like crap in this SECULAR country of ours... The religious right seem to beat us with sticks everytime we go anywhere

    February 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Balanced99

      How is that atheist's are discriminated against? I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm not religious in anyway and undecided whether or not I believe in god. I try to study a bit of each religion and respect people's right to practice theirs – so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

      How is it that atheists feel they're discriminated against – I'd simply like to learn.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • sarah

      And if your girlfriend and yourself had a bad break-up and her friends film her yelling off-camera that you are attacking her and then act as witnesses against you, do you think that should be sufficient evidence to convict you? It just doesn't work. I don't think any court should convict on evidence like that.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Matt

      For example, this is not an isolated incident. Many atheists that I know (living in southern Louisiana) have been verbally abused or physically hurt, by most of the time family members. I am not talking about the Westboro protest types either. These people that abuse an atheist may normally very reasonable, but the term 'atheist' is kind of a trigger word. Take this for example, there was a recent study done and found hat people trust atheists as much as they trust rapists. That sort of ignorance to an entire group of people astounds me. Most of the time you hear about atheism in the press, it is a PR was of types, but too often, it goes beyond that, at least what I have experienced living in the South...

      February 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Balanced99

      Do you walk around with a big sign that says "Atheists"?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Davonskevort

      ya and atheists do the same to relgious people... the simple fact is that people will try to destroy what is not in their own view right(religious or not). Just realize your out to destroy be it intentional or not just like the other guy... the big question is who is iritating whome into being willing to strike first.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Matt

      I have never heard or read of an atheist attacking a religious person based on their beliefs, but I have seen it the other way around...

      February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • sarah

      Humans being what they are, I don't think you have to know about an atheist attacking a person for their beliefs to know that it probably has happened or will. Everyone is an individual. We can't speak for all of them.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  15. Rich

    This judge is clearly wrong on the First Amendment to say that provocative speech is not protected speech.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Nick

      he said he had the right to say it, you misinterpreted the article. the judge dismiised the case because they was no substantial evidence

      February 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • JeramieH

      Sorry to break this to you Nick, but not all speech is protected, and the right to speech is not absolute.

      Not to mention the "right to speech" refers to federal laws, not individuals' behavior.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • michaelwg

      Nick – He wouldn't allow the evidence (the video that went up on youtube), the article failed to mention that. And police testimony.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  16. Balanced99

    Here's a good question – what if the Muslim dressed as a Twin Tower with a plane flying into it with a sign that said praise Allah, and the Atheist ripped the sign off the Muslim?

    Would the judge have chastised the Muslim for being insensitive? How fast would the ACLU have shown up to represent the Muslim?

    February 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Nick

      um, i think he would be more then chastised because he is supporting terrorism. no one who lives in this country would defend him. would there be outrage in the middle east though? yes

      February 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • michaelwg

      What don't you understand about assault ?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  17. momoya

    .Unless you think violent assault is a good and decent response to speech, call and make your opinion known.

    Call the judge's office now:

    717-240-7864 << live operator

    717-766-4575 << leave message

    February 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  18. Mike

    Oh so it's okay to assault someone because their clothing offends you in America now? I guess I forgot to read the memo.

    February 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  19. Jake

    I am an atheist and very sensitive to the regular discrimination we endure (certainly more than any religion). However, if the judge reasonably concluded that he didn't have enough evidence as he claims was the case, I don't see any problem with that. Obviously, if the atheist was seriously attacked, he would have evidence in the form of injuries, which apparently wasn't the case.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with the judge saying that we should all use common sense. I have a right to call someone an idiot, but I'm not going to act like I didn't have it coming if he punches me in the face!

    February 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Balanced99

      You speak logically, however, I have no clue what discrimination atheists fell they endure?

      February 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Seth Hill of Topanga, California

      Jake, I'm a fellow atheist, but I hate your comment. You DO NOT have it coming if someone punches you! There is a universe of difference between words and violence. "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Trite, but so true!

      February 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • JeramieH

      An insult is speech, a punch to the face is assault.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • JohnR

      Jake, you're an idiot. And yes, you can bet I'll file charges against you if you punch me for saying it.

      February 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Aloha

      @Seth
      What about the thousands of teens that have committed suicide due to verbal assaults? Words clearly hurt them so much that they couldn't deal with the pain. You speak carelessly and illogically and should probably not post at all if you are going to post disproven "facts".

      February 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  20. waitasec

    who reserves the right to not be offended....?
    oh yeah, insecure children..in other words...the religious

    February 28, 2012 at 5:55 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.