Skip to comments.Judge rules against atheist attacked in costume [Video at link]
Posted on 02/27/2012 10:00:42 AM PST by James C. Bennett
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - It almost sounds like the makings of a joke: an atheist, a Muslim and the Mechanicsburg Halloween parade. But non-believers aren't laughing about an attack and insist what's really frightening is the way a district judge ruled on it.
The Atheists of Central Pennsylvania decided to walk in the Mechanicsburg Halloween parade. There was a zombie Pope and a zombie Muhammed. On YouTube, you can catch a scary moment. It's dark and distorted, but a Muslim man comes off the curb extremely offended at Muhammed being depicted in this way.
"He grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck," said Ernie Perce, who donned the costume.
The Muslim man and Perce both called police to report a crime. Both kept walking, and a few blocks down found Sgt. Brian Curtis. He talked to both and came to this conclusion.
"Mr. Perce has the right to do what he did that evening, and the defendant in this case was wrong in confronting him," he said.
Talaag Elbayomy was charged with harassment, but District Judge Mark Martin threw it out after criticizing Perce, the victim, and even calling him a "doofus." The audio is also on YouTube.
Martin, who has done several tours of duty in the Middle East, said Perce would be put to death in those societies for his crime, but Perce wonders why that's relevant in this country.
"He let a man who is Muslim, because of his preference of his culture and his way of life, walk free from an attack," Perce said.
R. Mark Thomas represented Elbayomy and applauds the judge.
"I think this was a good dressing down by the judge," he said. "The so-called victim was the antagonist and we introduced evidence that clearly showed his attitude toward Muslims. The judge didn't do anything I wouldn't have done if I was in that position."
Although Elbayomy denied touching Perce at trial, Curtis said he admitted grabbing Perce's sign and beard the night of the incident.
Talaag Elbayomy said he was at the parade with his wife and two kids and felt he just had to do something. In fact, he too called police because he thought it was a crime for someone to depict Muhammed in such a way. He has since learned otherwise.
There is a surprising story out of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania that seems the perfect storm of religious tensions. You begin with Ernie Perce, an atheist who marched as a zombie Mohammad in the Mechanicsburg Halloween parade. Then you add Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim who stepped off a curb and reportedly attacked Perce for insulting the Prophet. Then you have a judge (Judge Mark Martin) who threw out the criminal charges against Elbayomy and ridiculed the victim, Perce. The Judge identifies himself as a Muslim and says that Perce conduct is not what the First Amendment is supposed to protect. [UPDATE: The judge says he is not a Muslim despite what is heard by most listeners on the tape. That being the case, the criticism of the comments remains.]
Perce is the American Atheists’ Pennsylvania State Director and marched with other atheists, including one dressed as a creepy Pope. Here is the tape of the incident:
Perce says that Elbayomy grabbed him and tried to take his sign. Elbayomy was at the parade with his wife and children and said that he felt he had to act in the face of the insult. The officer at the scene, Sgt. Brian Curtis, correctly concluded that Perce was engaged in a lawful, first amendment activity. He therefore charged Elbayomy. While it looks like an assault, he was only charged with harassment.
The case, however, then went to District Judge Mark Martin who not only threw out the charge of harassment but ridiculed Perce as a “doofus.” He also proceeds to not only give an account of his own feelings (and say that he was offended personally by Perce’s action) but suggests that Elbayomy was just protecting his “culture.” The judge not only points to the Koran in the courtroom but his time in Muslim countries as relevant to his deliberations. Putting aside the problem of ruling in a case where you admit you have strong personal feelings, the lecture given on the first amendment is perfectly grotesque from a civil liberties perspective.
Here is part of the hearing transcript:
Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two-and-a-half years in predominantly Muslim countries, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. In fact, I have a copy of the Quran here, and I would challenge you, Sir, to show me where it says in the Quran that Muhammad arose and walked among the dead. I think you misinterpreted a couple of things. So before you start mocking somebody else’s religion, you might want to find out a little more about it. It kind of makes you look like a doofus. …
In many other Muslim-speaking countries, err, excuse me, many Arabic-speaking countries, predominantly Muslim, something like this is definitely against the law there, in their society. In fact, it could be punished by death, and frequently is, in their society.
Here in our society, we have a Constitution that gives us many rights, specifically First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers intended. I think our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures – which is what you did.
I don’t think you’re aware, Sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – I understand you’re an atheist – but see Islam is not just a religion. It’s their culture, their culture, their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day toward Mecca. To be a good Muslim before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, unless you’re otherwise told you cannot because you’re too ill, too elderly, whatever, but you must make the attempt. Their greeting is ‘Salam alaikum, wa-laikum as-Salam,’ uh, ‘May God be with you.’
Whenever it is very common, their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, Allah willing, this will happen. It’s, they’re so immersed in it. And what you’ve done is, you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim. I find it offensive. I find what’s on the other side of this [sign] very offensive. But you have that right, but you are way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights. …
I’ve spent about seven years living in other countries. When we go to other countries, it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as ‘ugly Americans.’ This is why we hear it referred to as ‘ugly Americans,’ because we’re so concerned about our own rights, we don’t care about other people’s rights. As long as we get our say, but we don’t care about the other people’s say.
The judge’s distorted view of the first amendment was magnified by Elbayomy’s counsel, R. Mark Thomas who called this lecture “a good dressing down by the judge. The so-called victim was the antagonist and we introduced evidence that clearly showed his attitude toward Muslims. The judge didn’t do anything I wouldn’t have done if I was in that position.”
I fail to see the relevance of the victim’s attitude toward Muslims or religion generally. He had a protected right to walk in the parade and not be assaulted for his views. While the judge laments that “[i]t’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others,” that is precisely what the Framers had in mind if Thomas Paine is any measure.
Notably, reports indicate that Elbayomy called police because he thought it was a crime to be disrespectful to Muhammed. The judge appears to reference this by noting that in some countries you can be put to death for such an offense. Those countries are called oppressive countries. This is a free country where it is not a crime to insult someone’s religion — despite a counter-trend in some Western countries.
I also do not see how the judge believes that he has the authority to tell a religious critic that “before you start mocking somebody else’s religion, you might want to find out a little more about it.” Let alone call a person a “doofus” because he opposes religion.
To make matters worse, the judge is reportedly threatening Perce with contempt for posting the audio of the hearing.
The reference to the cultural motivations for assaulting Perce seems to raise a type of cultural defense. I have spent years discussing this issue with state and federal judges on the proper role of culture in criminal and civil cases. This is not a case where I would view that defense as properly raised. There are certainly constitutional (and yes cultural) norms that must be accepted when joining this Republic. One is a commitment to free speech. If culture could trump free speech, the country would become the amalgamation of all extrinsic cultures — protecting no one by protecting everyone’s impulses. Those countries referenced by the court took a different path — a path away from civil liberties and toward religious orthodoxy. It is a poor example to raise except as an example of what we are not. The fact that this man may have formed his views in such an oppressive environment does not excuse his forcing others to adhere to his religious sentiments.
Martin’s comments also heighten concerns over the growing trend toward criminalizing anti-religious speech in the use of such standards as the Brandenburg test, a position supported by the Obama Administration.
There are legitimate uses of the culture defense. However, when it comes to free speech, that is not just our controlling constitutional right but the touchstone of our culture.
I can understand the judge’s claims of conflicting testimony on the crime –though it seems to be that the officer’s testimony and the tape would resolve those doubts. However, I view this as an extremely troubling case that raises serious questions of judicial temperament, if not misconduct.
The moral of the story is,if someone puts their hands on you-have the skills needed to put them on the ground.Hard and fast.
Maybe the judge thinks what Perce did was like waving a red flag in front of a raging bull!
Well, then the raging Muslim bull should be put down for assaulting the infidels.
WHY do we allow them into our country?
Sharia Law is here.
Submit or fight.
Judge rules against atheist attacked in costume
MUSLIM Judge rules against atheist attacked by MUSLIM
A Moslem attacked an atheist. On whose side will the ACLU come down?
The Magistrate’s response is here:
“This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the victim (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: Im a Muslim, and thats why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, Im actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).
I also supposedly called him and threatened to throw him in jail if he released the tapes he had made in the courtroom without my knowledge/permission (Fact: HE called ME and told me that he was ready to go public with the tapes and was wondering what the consequences would be; I advised him again to not disseminate the recording, and that I would consider contempt charges; he then replied that he was willing to go to jail for (his) 1st amendment rights- I never even uttered the word jail in that conversation).
He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).
He claims that Im biased towards Islam, apparently because he thinks Im Muslim. In fact, those of you who know me, know that Im an Army reservist with 27 years of service towards our country (and still serving). Ive done one tour in Afghanistan, and two tours in Iraq, and am scheduled to return to Afghanistan for a year this summer. During my first tour in Iraq, I was ambushed once, attacked by a mob once, sniped at once, and rocketed, bombed, and mortared so many times that I honestly dont know how many time Ive been attacked. Presumably by Muslim insurgents. My point: if anyone SHOULD be biased towards Muslims, one would think it would be me. Im not, however, because I personally know or have met many good, decent people who follow Islam, and I shouldnt characterize the actions of those who tried to kill me as characterizations of all Muslims.
When I asked him why he dressed up as Muhammad zombie, he told me that it was because he was reflecting the Muslim belief that Muhammad rose from the dead, walked as a zombie, and then went to heaven. That was one of the reasons I tried to spend 6 whole minutes trying to explain and de-mystify Islam through my own knowledge, and in an attempt to prevent an incident like this recurring in my community. Unfortunately, the message was obviously not received in the vein that I had intended. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did use the word doofus, but didnt call him that directly; I said something akin to if youre going to mock another religion or culture, you should check your facts, first- otherwise, youll look like a doofus.;
In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didnt doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victims version, the defendants version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.
A lesson learned here: theres a very good reason for Rule 112 of Rules of Criminal Procedure- if someone makes an unauthorized recording in a Court not of Record, theres no way to control how it might be manipulated later, and then passed off as the truth. Weve received dozens upon dozens of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails. There are literally hundreds of not-so-nice posts all over the internet on at least 4 sites that have carried this story, mainly because Ive been painted as a Muslim judge who didnt recuse himself, and whos trying to introduce Sharia law into Mechanicsburg.”
He’s not a Muslim according to his response. He’s also a Lt. Colonel and did two tours in Iraq.
This country is toast.
The judge’s argument - might make sense - from the point of view of a regular guy on the street - who hasn’t really thought through what he is saying. It would be wrong - but excusable. But - a judge? With that - frankly - insane comments? Should be disbarred. He has no concept of what he is doing up there.
He can’t be “disbarred”. He isn’t a lawyer. District Judges in Pennsylvania are not required to be lawyers. They are elected magistrates who handle low level criminal cases and small claims actions.
Would have been very different had it been a Christian that attacked an Atheist!
His prior military service has no bearing on the facts. He is obviously unfit for office and should be removed.
“Maybe the judge thinks what Perce did was like waving a red flag in front of a raging bull!”
Bulls are dumb animals and are not expected to be able to conform themselves to difficult rules of conduct like, “don’t attack humans.” Muslims, OTOH, . . .
this stupid ruling would immediately be overturned upon appeal.... but what these judges count on is you not being able to afford to appeal this crap... so, what is a civilian to do??? File a complaint with the state board that oversees the judiciary. They HAVE to investigate. At a minimum this clown’s laundry would be aired for all to see, and we know that a commie cannot operate in the daylight..
The recording was made by the atheist defendant. It is poor quality, and very well could have been edited. The atheist posted the tape to Youtube. It isn’t an official recording.
Keep in mind that the atheist was also attacking Christianity to, and an atheist has no objective moral basis for not lying to suit his interests.
This is a pretty good example of a recording not telling the whole story.
...He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).
Last paragraph prolly means he's of the ELCA stripe.