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. Salero 21

    Many Veterans, especially those who have been in combat zones for too long, need help to transition from the Fascist way of life inside the Military, to the more license oriented Civilian way of life. I believe that may be the case of the Judge. He appears to be thinking in terms of things that are not acceptable in the Military vs. that which even if is considered unnaceptable, is still tolerated in the Civilian way of life.

    So I disagree with the accusations leveled against him, as being a muslim or a simpathizer of Islam. He is talking the way a Military judge will most probablly talk. He has not made a succesful transition from the Fascist Military mindset, to the more loosely oriented Civilian.

    But that's what we're getting from an AVA, that has to resort to a backdraft manipulation. Simply because they will never ever, have the numbers necessary to meet the strenous demands of the missions imposed on them.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • c/Clark

      hey first, the military is not Fascist, second i disagree with both party's. this is a simple case. no one should purposely insult someones religion, whether they have one or not. also you should not attack each other over such things. this is why we humans are the way we are. you don't see dolphins running around shooting each other and using threats of total world annihilation. they both need to be given a stern talk and then let it go.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Salero 21

      c/Clark; my guess is you are/were Not in the Military. The second definition of Fascism according to Merrian-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is as follows: 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

      In the Military there is no Freedom of Speech. There is however freedom of thought. It is in the Military Not in Civilian life, where the abuse of your rights and priviledges can and will cause those rights and priviledges to be completely lost.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Salero 21

      Fascism 2nd. definition according to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control (early instances of Army fascism and brutality J.W. Aldridge).

      February 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Forget about the book for a moment, what about mass murder, gross violation of human rights, illegal invasion, occupation and pillage.. is the USA allowed to do that?

    February 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply

    Speaking about atheists harassment reaching Muslims door step... It is said to be ok but Muslims are required not to retaliate in violence otherwise they are the criminal one's ...! That is because the consti-tution and amendments of the US said so....!?

    February 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |

    February 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  3. Salero 21

    No other evidence, no eyewitness testimony to support or corroborate the "claim". The man was Not seeing in the video, and "Hey he's attacking me" sounds more like his perception of the incident. Since it appears that nobody saw Mr. Perce being touched.

    Thought I would agree that the after-statements by the judge are typical of someone who hasn't make the transition from the Fascist Military way of life, to the Civilian way of life. The more I read it and the more comments I read from atheists who were NOT there, the more bogus the alleged "attack" claim seem to be. Looks like to me atheists are just looking for an excuse to bellyache. History is Not on their side much either.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • MandoZink

      Having History not on your side kinda is a reason to bellyache. Normally, however, atheist have been a docile lot who cause little trouble in any major way. They are generally a moral lot who are unlikely to do the kinds of things that get them sent to jail. Considering the percentage of atheists in this country, almost NO atheists are in prisons.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Salero 21

      I disagree in part MandoZink. In the US, atheist have not caused as much trouble as in other nations, namely the former USSR, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, the former Eastern block, China in the hey days of Mao Tse-Dung etc. just to name a few and not including countries in Africa.

      However, though Not Intellectually, those in Prison for all kinds of crimes and felonies. In Practice, in Lifestyle, in their behaviour and conduct, in their treatment and dealings with their fellow human beings. Which in many cases included neighbors, family, friends, relatives. Demonstrated without a doubt, that they did not care whether God existed or Not.

      God Commands Not to murder, however many of those in Prisons are there precisely for Murder. So their actions spoke a whole lot Louder than their words, if they ever uttered any word about God existence.

      So you see, the Point I'm trying to make is that, anyone, anybody who does any wrong to his neighbor in any way, is acting, behaving and conducting themselves like they truly think that there is no God. They act like if there is no God who is listening and seeing, therefore there is no God who at the end of all things is going to either Reward or Judge. So is not only a matter of Thought, Conceptualization, Intellect or whatever have you. It is also a matter of actions, behaviour, conduct that demonstrate they DO NOT believe in God. Therefore they go ahead and assault, rob, steal and murder whoever has the misfortune of being in their path.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • reason

      Salero, the attacker admitted to a police officer that he did it.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • MandoZink

      Those who point out past atrocities by so-called "atheists" are significantly mistaken as to the fundamental nature of the people who committed those acts. While religious violence is carried out by extremists in the name of their religious beliefs, the frequently mentioned historic atrocities by non-religious tyrants were committed by maladjusted individuals. They were either paranoid, narcissistic, megalomaniacal, psychopathic, totalitarian or a combination thereof. They did not have any comprehension of the inherent moral sense of human kindness that the majority of rational atheists come to know. Integrity, understanding, and empathy for the human condition are the hallmarks of character that enlightened beings come to realize. Those awakened to intelligent atheism understand this comprehension of human quality is essential to a sane, compassionate, and universally moral society. ALL good people, both atheists and theists, should understand this. It is frustrating to feel the prejudice that religious people often project when they misjudge atheists as amoral. Surprisingly to you, we are more committed to all of humanity as a higher purpose in life, as we have to answer to ourselves for our discretions. We atheists cannot rely on a supreme being to forgive us not paying attention to our fellow man. "Do unto others..." is a commitment we share.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • closet atheist

      @ Salero ~ If somebody kills another person, then they are acting as if they don't believe in god? Are you truly that narrow-minded? Has it ever occured to you that the lack of belief in a god can ACTUALLY be a GOOD thing? we, as atheists, have only our own person consience to answer to... ie, 100% personal responsibility. We have no god to "absolve our sins" when we go astray. I would argue that an atheist who has spent some real time thinking about their personal "beliefs" often lives a more moral and upright existence. Give it some honest and hard thought sometime...

      February 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  4. MandoZink

    This ruling is devastating for the Westboro Baptist Church gang. Now it is open season on them. The KKK can also now be attacked without repercussions, as many others who practice free speech. Worse yet, this particular display was closer to satire than actual hate. Wow!

    February 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  5. Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is delusional.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • William H. Burke, Jr.

      Atheists aren't healthy for children and other living things. Take Richard Dawkins calling the Virgin Mary a "cosmic dormat"
      and other insults. Freedom of speech doesn't mean you can just disrespect and insult other people's sincere beliefs in public
      and get away with it. You do stuff like that, expect to get your ass kicked!

      February 28, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • momoya

      The issue isn't the @s.s-kicking, it's the illegality of the @s.s-kicking. I'd let you kick my ass if I could guarantee that I could get that video footage in front of a judge who put you away for assault.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  6. naji

    Im Catholic and I woulda kicked his ass. Its one thing to speak out, its another thing to publicly ridicule someone's faith. He's glad no one KO'd him that night. Have some common decency...

    February 28, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • naji

      What would you expect if someone stood infront of a black person and called then N****** over and over again. Or stood in front of a woman and called her B****. Im sorry but there is a fine line between free speech and get yo A** kicked words. Lets just be real here. Say the wrong thing to a cop and he will whip your head for it. Respect other people or you will get no respect back.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Sigma

      Attacking someone's skin color is not the same as attacking someone's belief. Two different things.
      Use logic when reasoning.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • pat carr

      Well then i hope you get your behind beaten up bad by someone you "offend". Even a KO.

      you religious jerks. have you ever heard of the first amendment? Your Catholicism is offensive to me and yet i wouldn't beat you over it.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Tom Mix

      wrong...someone's belief and someone's race are the same thing when it comes to prejudice.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • momoya

      So you wouldn't forgive or be merciful or "love your enemies," then? If you'll notice, in the gospels whenever jesus is mocked, he kicks the guy's @ss! They disrespect him and get shanked by one of the Apostles. It was sooo coool!

      February 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • bogusboggs

      If it's alright to burn my country's flag for whatever reason, then religious people of ALL faiths need to develop thicker skin. The rights of Muslims (or any other belief system) should not outweigh the fact that they can be offended. With respect to this judge and his service to our country, so what if that Muslim was offended? So what if a Jew, a Christian or an Atheist are offended? NO group of people, religious-oriented or not deserve any more protection than any OTHER group of people.

      February 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • c/Clark

      i totally agree, to be civilized you must treat others civilized. disrespecting a religion or a person is ridiculous and unnecessary. and folks its bad when a 15 year old can figure this out, but adults who im supposed to use as a base for when im an adult do horrid uncivilized things. any one disagree?

      February 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  8. Muhammad


    February 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • MandoZink

      I took a chance on this video. This woman is great. I thought she was going to do a pro-muslim thing. I ended up looking at several of her videos on YouTube. She has a scientific background and makes some funny videos about religion and belief.

      February 29, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  9. Discovery

    People walk around with fur coats all the time, does that give PETA advocates the right to assault people wearing fur coats now that a precedence has been set.? This is a dangerous precedence.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Ateo1979

      Slippery slope decision by the judge. I wonder if assaults against out and out atheists will rise.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  10. James Varney

    The authors of this piece Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN did absolutely no first hand research ,they missed the following:
    1. The attack was videoed but the judge refused to let it be entered into evidence
    2. The attacker in his own testimony admits he assaulted the victim
    3. The judge was taped in his condemnation of the victim and clearly referred to Sharia rules of evidence and justification of the attack for showing disrespect for the profit. He also refers to himself as a Muslim and thumped down a copy of the Koran for emphasis during his berating of the victim.

    The tape of the courtroom testimony and lecture is now the cause of prosecution of the victim by the same judge who gave permission in advance for the taping to go on.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • reason

      It is strange that CNN did not cover any of this.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • James Varney

      reason – It is CNN ! This type of "reporting" is all they do.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  11. marc

    So the judge can also say that muslims are justified in attacking america because we insult and provoke them.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • bogusboggs

      I suppose if I see someone burning my country's flag and badmouthing my great land I should have the right to bust out the whuppin' stick! My country's flag means more to me than the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and ANY OTHER religious parchment that is out there! If I have to put up with garbage I don't like, unfortunately, religious people HAVE TO DO THE SAME! Hopefully, this "judge" gets his clock cleaned on appeal!

      February 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  12. Mohamed

    Damn it. I wish some muslim monkey would attack me, so I could I could stick a bomb up his mooohamed tallybanny ass.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  13. deb536

    "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." "

    If this joker was actually assaulted, then by all means the aggressor should be charged. But I completely agree with the judge. Just because you have the right to say what you will doesn't mean you have no responsibility for what comes out of your mouth. I don't agree with all the laws trying to tell you what you can and can't say, but they are trying to legislate common sense and personal responsibility and that just doesn't work.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • momoya

      That sounds a lot like the "she was asking for it" defense used by ra.p.i.sts.

      Why are you suggesting that physical violence is an appropriate response to mere words? Do you really think that I'm enti.tled to give you a 'smack down' if you offend me badly enough with your words?

      February 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • VRage13

      "With rights come responsibility" and then chastised the victim of the attack. This is a good thing. We can now beat the hell out of or kill anyone who speaks out against the USA. Open season on Muslims has just been granted by this judge. Thank you.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  14. jim

    Soon the government will deprive us of our First Amendment rights. We must appease Muslims.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • VRage13

      The judges ruling means we can beat the hell out of anyone who speaks out against us for anything.

      February 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  15. 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 8:19 pm |
  16. Muneef

    So now it is right for Atheists to Burn Jewish,Christians,Muslims Holy Books,say insults to GOD,Angels,Prophets harassing believers for their beliefs...but it is not right for those believers to say a word or take an act to defend their beliefs which they think should be respected...?? Oh my what a justice system you have...! What freedoms do you protect? Freedoms of immoralities...!

    February 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • momoya

      Word for word is fine. VIOLENCE for word is not. It's a pretty simple idea.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Don Juan

      Typical religious nut.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Ateo1979

      And as you have pointed out in your list, since there is zero mention of it, that no atheist has taken violent action against a believer, but it's okay for religious zealots to resort to violence because their beliefs were mocked.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Keith

      This is not Yemen. We have laws and a consti-tution. This judge broke the law. Sharia law has no place in America and hopefully never will. This is a Sharia Free zone.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Muneef

      What has sharia laws to do with it..sharia cannot be imposed on non Muslims...we are talking here about morals and respect to beliefs... I wouldn't respect a man talking bad about Jesus nor about Maryam or Moses... There are limits to every thing...

      February 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • marc

      It is the law of the land. Freedom of speech and expression. If someone mocks and insult your religion or beliefs then you can mock back and insult his beliefs but not result to physical assault. You burn U.S. flags too but you don't go to jail. Burning a bible is no problem to me and I'm a Christian. It's just a paper made by man and not the word of God. But in your religion burning a quran is a sin punishable by death. Now that we are in the electronic age, does destroying a CD, DVD, flash drive containing a copy of quran considered burning the word of your prophet?

      February 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • QSQR

      Muneef-You said you will be equally offended if someone spoke about Moses orMary. Will you be offended if someone mocked Buddha, Brahma etc,? I think not. What one group considers sacred another group may not.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sorry we do not do mocking because mocking any religious person is mocking GOD when GOD is one...but mocking some one unreligious is like talking to a brick of wall and nothing would he really care for... But truly we consider that not freedom when it was intended as an insult and disrespect because if you want to debate some thing still you can do that politely with out intended hurt of feeling or considered as insulting to Holiness of the issue..
      About electonoical age I agree there are dvd's, cd's and so on to be disposed of which really find there is no problem with burning but our consideration is paper printed Holy Quran...that's maybe other things contents are unseen while paper prints are seen...
      We are not agreeing to violence but if mocking reaches the step of your door or mosque then that is harassment and has to be dealt with... Am sure if some one started calling names your parents or sisters,you would not go for mocking him back with names but rather take the matter with your fists ...!?

      February 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Muneef

      That is a good point you mentioned but those are not mentioned in the Holy Quran and therefore not know any thing about other than from other sources being as a way of life based of wisdoms which means they called for good things and a good way of behavior therefore they gained respect for it... I have had foreign hindu staff working for me for over 25 years now but never have seen or heard any of my Muslim staff or people out side office mock them or even discuss with them about their beliefs..they are free with what they believe...it is a matter of mutual respect..

      February 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Keith

      Muneef, You said, "Sorry we do not do mocking because mocking any religious person is mocking GOD when GOD is one..."
      All religions do not follow the same God. Jehovah of the Bible is not Allah of the Koran. And there is only ONE WAY to God: Jhn 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
      Jesus Christ is the Son of God and created all things:
      Jhn 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      Jhn 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.

      Jhn 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
      The Koran states: Sura 4.171 O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His apostles, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one God; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector.
      Isa and Jesus are NOT the same. We do NOT worship the same God. Rick Warren would disagree with me, but tricky Ricky is wrong. I only tell you this because I care about your eternal destiny, Muneef. I apologize if I sound mean-spirited here.
      Jhn 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
      Bottom line is this Muneef, If you don't acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the lake of fire. I will pray that you see the Light, Muneef.

      February 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  17. Charles

    I support scholar's earlier post that this ruling will fail under appeal. It would be a good case for the ACLU to take up. My fellow atheist's expression was provaotive, but does not overreach by contemporary American standards of expression. I'll cite the Tea Party's recent disrespectful portrayals of president Obama as examples. Irrespective of belief in the supernatural, our Muslim brother overreached in this case.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  18. Hank Jones

    @Johnny...you've got it backwards: evidence is NEVER needed to prove that a god doesn't exist...it is up to those who believe in God to prove that such a being exists...

    February 28, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Johnny

      Evidence is needed to convince you that a god exists, certainly. But to state as a certainty that no god exists, you also need evidence. Absent such evidence, you cannot say that no god exists as a fact, but only as a belief.

      It can be hard to wrap your head around this, but it is absolutely true. Take some time and think about it.

      February 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  19. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you fat.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer gives you knobbly knees.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • elvisIsALLah

      Ok we get it. being that Im also an athiest. The point here is that this judge is an idiot and he made an illegal ruling. No one should be assaulting anyone and no judge in the US should defer to shari law. This guy needs to be removed from his position maybe he needs to go back to Iraq and live with the locals.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • justme

      did you pray for your name not to be posted along with this dumb post or just to have it posted ?

      February 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  20. Voice of Reason

    Why is there controversy here?

    Think about it as a family matter. The case was one person's word against the other, e.g. you can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A parent would dismiss the case as well or send both parties to their room. In courts of law, we don't sentence people without *sufficient* evidence however to justify a punishment.

    However, CNN reports in the first few paragraphs that the Atheist was being provocative and taunting the other party– this sounds like it was not in dispute at all. Most parents would recognize that even if one doesn't warrant physical violence, that the taunting and verbal abuse of another party is not something we wish to encourage in our society or among our families. The judge dispensed (as is the judges perogative) some good advice.

    Trust CNN and the news media to go make a religious issue where there isn't one.

    February 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Don Juan

      Once again, we have someone piping in that has zero understanding of the case. The defendant admitted to the attack to the police and there was corroborating video evidence that an attack took place. The judge refused to consider the police statements or anything else. If you think this is just CNN, you're just a complete clown.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:07 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.