The ruling by Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin in Mechanicsburg is bad enough since the charges against a Muslim man who assaulted an atheist dressed as “zombie Mohammad” were dismissed. The real problem with this ruling is that a judge completely fails to grasp the meaning of the First Amendment.
Ernest Perce took part in a parade by atheists last November. He dressed as “zombie Mohammad” while another member of the group dressed as “zombie Pope.” A Muslim man attacked Perce during the parade but was arrested by a police officer whose testimony was ignored by Judge Martin. A video of the attack also was not shown in the courtroom.
Martin, a reservist who has spent three tours in the Middle East, was incorrectly referred to as a Muslim in an earlier Foolocracy story and on other websites. He is in fact a Lutheran.
In a ruling that neglected a truthful interpretation of the law but was loaded with personal exhortations against Perce, Martin declared that Perce had overstepped his constitutional rights, “[Y]ou’re way outside your boundaries or First Amendment rights.”
Whether someone agrees with Perce as an atheist or not is beside the point. The Constitution protects everyone’s right to free speech and exercise of religious beliefs. Judge Martin apparently disagrees. He should be investigated by the state bar and tossed from the bench. His rant against free speech is a direct affront to every American’s constitutional rights.
In the short time since the ruling, Perce claims to have been threatened 471 times for his portrayal of Mohammad. In an interview with the Daily Caller, Perce explained:
“People have said that they would kill me, rip my eyes out, run me over, shoot me and then laugh at me, since I have blasphemed Muhammad,” he told The DC. “They say I will be found out and hung in front of my family.
Martin, who in his ruling referred that Perce acted like a “dufus,” is now trying to state that he didn’t really call Perce that.
“I did use the word “dufus,” but didn’t call him that directly; I said something akin to “ if you’re going to mock another religion or culture, you should check your facts, first- otherwise, you’ll look like a dufus.”
Martin said roughly the same thing in his ruling. Here are his real words:
“I think you misinterpreted things. Before you start mocking someone else’s religion, you may want to find out a little bit more about it. It makes you look like a dufus.”
I didn’t call you a dufus, you just look like one. That is a fine argument there, judge. It lacks in everything a person wearing the robes should be — fair-minded, restrained and professional.
Martin also tried to make his case why he threatened Perce with contempt for releasing the tapes of the court proceedings. The current tapes publicly available on the internet are undoubtedly biased towards Perce, but it is hard to look at Martin’s ruling in any favorable light anyway. Besides verbally challenging Perce’s right to protest, Martin also wanted to squelch Perce’s release of court recordings that should be open to anyone in the public to see. This is a public trial after all. Unfortunately, this is a judge that just doesn’t get the First Amendment.