Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out Charge for Harassing Atheist While Calling the Victim a Doofus

Jonathan Turley, February 24, 2012

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.”


Notably, reports indicate that Elbayomy called police because he thought it was a crime to be disrespectful to Muhammed. {snip}


To make matters worse, the judge is reportedly threatening Perce with contempt for posting the audio of the hearing.


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  • Hirschibold

    Here’s a phrase I haven’t heard on the news recently: “Seventeen people were killed and thirteen wounded today when atheist rebels detonated a bomb in a public square.”

    • MartelC

      Look at Revolutionary France, Bolshevist Russia and other atheist run governments.  Both were anti-Christian and killed thousands, and hundreds of thousands of clergy, respectfully.  Both destroyed beautiful historic Christian churches and art. 

      • Hirschibold

         Re-read my post. “Recently.”

        • MartelC

          Oh, I am sure they will again when they get a chance.The implication of your statement was that atheists are somehow not prone to this sort of violence, which stems from, in your eyes, religion, if you look at some of the polemic statements of atheists such of Sam Harris, its not far removed from a radical Imam. Don’t try to wiggle out it on a legalism…

          • Hirschibold

            Do you know what “triage” is? You keep your eyes peeled for the atheist boogeymen and let me know when they reappear. I will (with your permission of course) keep vigil on the problem posed by Muslims in Western society. Are you okay with that?

      • They did it in the name of a new religion, Marxism-Leninism.

    • The_Bobster

      Atheist rebels are in charge now. They don’t have to resort to terrorism.

  • Alexandra1973

    Oh, the irony.  Using the First Amendment, which is supposed to protect freedom of religion, so you can deny others *their* freedom of religion.

    I couldn’t care less about their pervert prophet Muhammad.  He didn’t die for me.

  • MartelC

    Needless to say, if a Christian had done this to the atheist the Christian would be charged with a hate crime and the story would be plastered across the NYT.. “a new era of religious intolerance (insert KKK stories, etc) .

    We all know how the cultural Marxists operate

  • Anybody who believes that Muslims, even nominal Muslims, will support the principles upon which this nation was founded (I.E. freedom of speech/religion), is a fool.  To allow large numbers of them into our societies is suicide.  Organized religion is notorious for denying others their liberties and, as it stands, Islam is the most powerful of organized religions – because its adherents to not hesitate to use violence.

    • MartelC

      Reuben, any organized ideology can drift into denying liberties- who’s denying our liberties today? the roman catholic church? or the secular left?

      Quakers and amish are organized, they don’t much bother anyone. Anglicans are organized, they don’t deny anyone liberties, in fact, the secular left wants to deny Anglicans the right to refuse to ‘marry’ gay couples.

      Medieval christian universities encouraged debate.   When Queen Isabel was driving out the Moors from Spain, she appointed a woman professor @ Salamanca – both instances – a female ruler and professor – are unthinkable in Islam.

  • bluffcreek1967

    Islam, throughout its bloody history, has NEVER been tolerant of other views. American Muslims who consistently follow the Koran and the example of Muhammed himself will NEVER adhere to our country’s First Ammedment if they gain control. Even if some American Muslims tried to urge their fellow Muslims to accept the concept of ‘free speech,’ they would be despised, ostracized and persecuted. Such ideas as ‘ religious tolerance’ and ‘respectful disagreement’ with the opinions of others is utterly foreign to the Muslim mindset. These are Western ideas and values, not Islamic ones. Americans must recognize that genuine and serious adherents of Islam are automatically enemies of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.   

  • This_Name_Doesnt_Exist

    This judge is just your standard cookie-cutter soldier against heterosexual White men.  Being an atheist doesn’t raise a White man very high up the totem pole, as Mr. Perce seems to now understand.

    But people who do things like these athiest nitwits did are childish.  I’d like to see this moron dress up like Buckwheat and parade through Oakland and see if they think he’s so cute.  I don’t have much respect for anyone who thinks its funny to press buttons that they know will get a rise out of people, then hide behind the First Amendment.  It’s not a license to be an A-hole.  He should have been ready to get punched in the face if he was going to go there.

    • MartelC

      atheists are very often moral cowards who think they are brave for saying “the pope sucks’. Yeah, like any of the liberal/globalist elite will disagree. 

      They pick on the very people, in fact the only people, who will defend them, and often go on about the ‘christian taliban’.

      Most atheists of this bent are, you nailed it, remarkably childish.

  • JohnEngelman

    Everything secular liberals hate about the religious right and the Bible Belt is more true of even moderate Muslims and moderate Muslim countries like Jordan. Nevertheless, secular liberals defend Muslims because of their hostility toward their own culture. What they do not understand is that Western culture makes secular liberalism possible. 

    • MartelC

      the secular left are still listening to the ‘enlightenment’ (read french revolutionary) model that blames on ills on the church and all advances on their ‘rational’ thinking.
      (never mind that oxford, cambridge, salmanca, sorbonne, etc were all Christian institutions, or that Kepler and Newton were deeply religious, or that it has produced philosophers like Aquainas, or Augustine ) .

      They think that anything that can help eliminate ‘their enemy’ is good, and they are arrogant enough to think they can ‘take care’ of islam when they are done with us. 

  • Some people are scratching their heads wondering what the point is of states like Oklahoma and a few others wanting legally to detach Shari’ah Law from the state’s legal jurisprudence.  In fact, a few people in AR have though that anti-Shari’ah legislation is a waste of time, but I think that angle is that some of our people falsely believe that “The Jews have given us permission to hate Muslims and no other non-white groups because Muslims have a thing against Jews.”  (The fly in that ointment is that even if you think “The Jews” have that kind of power, as a matter of fact, the ADL, AJC, the NYT and Elena Kagan have all come out publicly for Shari’ah Law).

    If this story doesn’t convince you of the wisdom of making Shari’ah off limits, then nothing ever will.

  • Don’t forget, problem is Islam, not atheism. True, American version of atheism is frequently childish, literal- as literal as Fundamentalism-, ignorant of nuances of religious/metaphysical experience that cannot be subsumed under orthodox labels (names like Herman Melville, William James, Walt Whitman, Miguel de Unamuno, Roberto Assagioli, Mircea Eliade, even Joseph Campbell .. immediately come to my mind)- but, this incident is typical of Muslim behavior everywhere. Sure, there are “soft” Muslims, mainly converts form intellectual milieu (Kabir Helminsky, Stephen Schwartz,..)- but they are actually outsiders, virtually negligible.

    Islam is an extreme form of religious tribalism, and absolutely incompatible with the modern world. It needs a sort of “Reformation”, but- it’s too late. 21st century won’t wait for them & their dilemmas about veil, inerrancy of the Koran, tribalism & horror of Koran criticism (Biblical criticism is a few centuries old), … They are menace, but when it comes to the pinch, they get a bloody nose. Always.

  • anarchyst

    The Constitution is a LIMIT on the federal government.  The Constitution infers NO rights as our rights are endowed upon us by our CREATOR, NOT government.
    The Constitution of the United States is unique among documents as it does not grant rights, it prevents government from abridging our natural rights, limiting the scope of government action.
    If only the government would respect the Constitution . . .

    • You can apply this same Logic to Welfare.  No where does it say, you must pay for another because they’re “poor”.

  • MartelC

    not examples of atheists? They specifically tried to eradicate Christianity and belief in God because it competed with the absolute power of the state.

    founding father’s athiests? “we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights’ Does that sound familiar?

  • MartelC

    I didn’t say they were. I simply said that implying atheists have never been fanatical or violent or that only religion is a source of violence is wrong.

    The secular left is just as opposed to evolution, when it’s inconvenient – as any ‘fundamentalist’

  • MartelC

    I didn’t say they were. I simply said that implying atheists have never been fanatical or violent or that only religion is a source of violence is wrong.

    The secular left is just as opposed to evolution, when it’s inconvenient – as any ‘fundamentalist’

  • MartelC

    I didn’t say they were. I simply said that implying atheists have never been fanatical or violent or that only religion is a source of violence is wrong.

    The secular left is just as opposed to evolution, when it’s inconvenient – as any ‘fundamentalist’

  • MartelC

    first. no, we don’t have an atheist run secular order: our rights are…well, let’s quote “we are endowed BY OUR CREATOR” thus tyrants cannot take them away – only abuse them.

    Second, whatever the founding father’s believed- and the extent of deism is exaggerated- they all advocated church attendance and religious devotion and morality “our constitution was made for a moral and religious people it is suitable for no other’ (paraphrase) j. adams

    third, Bolshivicks were indeed atheistic and intrinsically so – they murdered clergy and destroyed churches on a worse level than the french revolution.

    lastly, i implied no such thing – my post was in response to the assertion – and very often asserted by atheists – and a poster here- that religion/religious people are intolerant, fanatical and violent. 

    lastly, the enlightment view of the universe (clockwork left by God or , more recently clockwork that just created itself) is 200 years out of date.

  • Elisse87

    “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.”

    Here in civilized society we ignore insults and we certainly do not react with violence if we react all.