Judge rules against atheist attacked in costume by Muslim

Christina here…

So, as the story goes, Ernie Perce of PA participated in a zombie walk on Halloween with The Atheists of Central Pennsylvania dressed as Mohammad.

A Muslim man, Talaag Elbayomy did not appreciate this, and attacked him.  Police charged Elbayomy with harassment, but the judge threw out the case, letting Elbayomy walk free.

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.

Here’s a video of a news story about it.

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It doesn’t matter how antagonistic someone is to another person’s religion. It is wrong to assault them.

The representative for Elbayomy had this to say:

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.”

Negative attitudes do not warrant harassment/assault.

Here is the full audio of the trial. I listened to part of it, and the judge actually said,

“Was the defendant’s intent to harass, annoy or alarm? Or was it his intent to try and have the offensive situation negated?” and, “I think our forefather intended that we use the First Amendment so that we could speak what’s on our mind,  not to piss off other people and cultures… which is what [Perce] did.”

Note: the judge is a Muslim. In the audio, he talks about how he himself felt offense at Perce’s costume and actions, and that in his opinion, Perce went beyond the bounds of the First Amendment.

 

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Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

About christinastephens
  • http://paperdove.org/ nigelTheBold, Abbot of the Hoppist Monks

    “The so-called victim was the antagonist and we introduced evidence that clearly showed his attitude toward Muslims.”

    So, if we can introduce evidence that Christians are clearly antagonistic toward atheists, we can win a court case?

    Cool. I heartily approve this tactic. Everyone can sue just about everyone else, and win, based on wielding an attitude with intent to mock.

  • Marshall

    This needs to be appealed. I don’t want this bullshit on the books to be used as a precedent to establish a ‘religious offense’ defense. This ruling is obviously wrong and almost certainly wouldn’t stand up to an appeal.

    The defendant thought it was against the law to depict Muhammed. We continually act as though publishing CARTOONS that depict Muhammed are ‘inciting violence’. Here’s an explicit example of that principal in action. And now we have a court case where this principal was successfully used as a defense. This world is fucking absurd…

  • MichaelD

    So this is basically a license to attack street preachers that call you evil? Or people driving around with bumper stickers saying the fool has said in his heart there is no god? While I don’t think the costume was in very good taste I don’t think that gives you the right to assault someone.

  • http://iamaperture.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger

    Blasphemy laws here we come! Whooooo!

    *vomits*

  • zxcier

    Wait, is this a case of actual creeping Sharia law?

    I thought people were taught by kindergarten, much less law school, that we don’t solve disagreements with violence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597316935 ashleybell

      The judge should have recused himself.

  • jamessweet

    Blasphemy laws here we come! Whooooo!

    I think it’s worse than that… even if there were a law making Perce’s conduct illegal, we generally don’t approve of private citizens assaulting other private citizens for committing a crime. If I see you have a tail light out, is it okay for me to punch you in the nose?

  • eric

    Agree with @2. Do we know if its being appealed? Because it really needs to be.

  • TychaBrahe

    Since when is walking down the street inciting violence?

    This needs to be reversed, and the judge needs to be removed from the bench if he can’t keep his personal religious views from impacting how he interprets the laws.

  • Amber K

    Suddenly the first amendment is bounded by religious sensitivity?

  • Randomfactor

    What “suddenly,” Amber? The only difference here is it’s Muslim sensitivity, not Christian, at stake.

    And I use the words “at stake” carefully.

  • Justin

    Well, if this Muslim man gets off free….isn’t this a precedent for people to attack anybody who is offensive to a religion? (i.e. maybe the Westboro Baptist Church?) Physically assaulting somebody is flat out illegal…and the defense attorney even acknowledged it. How in the world did this get past something so obvious? Uggggh :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597316935 ashleybell

      I casn’t imagine the ACLU NOT already being all over this…If we know about it, we do. Plus the guy attacked was part of an atheist group, emphasis “group”, Which likely means they are achin’ for a fight of this type. I’m gonna keep my radar up for this item…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597316935 ashleybell

        “If we know about it, they do…

  • chadkazulu

    So, in PA we can attack people on the streets who hold/demonstrate religious views with which we don’t agree? This can’t be good news for the Westboro Baptist Church..!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597316935 ashleybell

      Well, if it sets precedent, Westboro better get workin’ on a higher fence!

  • The Lorax

    Sensitivity against Muhammad depictions needs to get taken down a few notches. Maybe what we need is a wave of satire across all forms of media available to us in order to point out how thin-skinned some of these people are…

    • Aliasalpha

      Perhaps we could organise some specific day where everyone does something like maybe drawing Mohammad…

  • unbound

    “Note: the judge is a Muslim. In the audio, he talks about how he himself felt offense at Perce’s costume and actions, and that in his opinion, Perce went beyond the bounds of the First Amendment.”

    Sounds like the judge needs to be disciplined and educated again on what the First Amendment really means…not what he wants it to mean to people in his group only.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/MegaZeusThor?feature=mhee megazeusthor

    You have the right to be offended. You do not have the right to assault someone.

  • Tom Robbins

    QUICK! someone cal up bryan fischer!

  • DaveL

    I think our forefather intended that we use the First Amendment so that we could speak what’s on our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures

    Is there any country in the world, even under the most repressive regime, where you don’t have the right to say things that don’t offend anybody? The right to freedom of speech, if it is to mean anything, must mean the right to say things that some people, even powerful people, find offensive.

  • baal

    I doubt the judge published the case so it’s not necessarily precedent. Also, I’m not sure a low level decision (with out the blessing of an affirming appeal) would really be considered persuasive outside of that specific jurisdiction.

  • DaveL

    Has anyone found a link to the text of the decision?

  • baalinooo

    We should start a petition against the judge.

  • Drew

    So I guess this means that when street preachers tell us we are going to hell because we are atheists, we can attack them right?

  • inflection

    This had better get appealed.

  • 98

    IANAL (Is there one in the house?) but I do not think this can get appealed. When found guilty, one can appeal. In this case Elbayomy was found innocent so double jeopardy prevents him from being tried again for harassment. On the other hand they could try to get him for violating Perce’s civil rights and hope to get a more impartial judge. But this is my non-lawyerly speculation.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe

      Also NAL, but according to the US Courts website FAQ on appeals, a ‘not guilty’ verdict cannot be appealed in a criminal case.

    • Fred5

      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.”

      Source

      Not only did district Judge Mark Martin dismiss the case against Talaag Elbayomy, he called the victim, Ernie Perce, a”doofus.”

      Source

      Double jeopardy only attaches when a defendant is found not guilty of a crime. (In other words, prosecutors cannot keep taking a person to court on the same charges over and over until they get a guilty sentence.)

      The way I am reading this case however, it sounds as if “Judge” Martin dismissed the charges, without ever making a determination of guilt or innocence.

      Therefore, if the prosecutors had any courage to do so, they could recharge Elbayomy with a more appropriate offense say, assault with attempt to do bodily harm, and try him under the new charges. (Double jeopardy would not attach because he would be charged with different offenses.)

  • royallypissed

    Who the Hell do people think they are. I don’t care what you believe in you do not have the right to assualt someone.

    If you don’t agree with what someone is saying or doing, do the HUMAN THING, (religious aside) WALK THE HELL AWAY!

    hope this gets appealed and the judge is fined. This is abuse of the law.

  • stubby

    I am so angry. That judge needs to be held accountable.

  • DaveL

    Having listened to the judge’s ruling, it seems his comments on the bounds of First Amendment rights would fall under “dicta” and be without legal effect. He also acknowledged that it would be wrong for Talaaq to lay hands on him, but the dismissal is based on a lack of evidence. And he has a point – the defendant denied there was any physical contact at trial, and although he had told the officer on that night that there had been physical contact, he made no statement that would corroborates the victim’s testimony as to the extent and nature of that contact. Even if the cell phone video had been admitted into evidence, it didn’t show the defendant attacking the victim. The prosecution presented no other evidence (which is astounding, to me, because this happened during a parade).

    He is still, however, utterly and completely wrong about the First Amendment. Especially in light of Snyder v. Phelphs.

  • pyro20

    I’ve read your blog for quite a while now JT, and I’d just like to thank you for showing huge integrity. I know it shouldn’t matter much, but I’ve read about this court case several times already, and this is the first time I’ve heard it mentioned that the judge was muslim, which although it shouldn’t, does affect the interpretation of the ruling.

    • pyro20

      Reviewed this right after posting and realised this was Christina’s post, so kudos to Christina too. (As an aside, if you have people guest posting on your blog, linking to their blogs in the sidebar would be excellent/appreciated :) )

      • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd Christina

        Actually, I am a full-fledged contributor/co-author of this blog. I just don’t post as often =D

  • Clarence

    If I am deeply offended by the judge’s behavior in this case, can I assault him ?? Where is my cudgel…

    • Marshill

      Since you vote democrats and Obama, you did this to yourself. Go to Europe…say Norway, and make a public mockery of Islam, and you will be fined and/or jailed! At least this dumb Obama voting atheists was dismissed. If the Obama voting atheist had his way, he would be standing in a socialist European style court, and would be on his way to jail. Left wing socialism does NOT grant atheists the right to mock Islam.

      • nermd


        most atheists in the US support European style socialism (democrat voters, Obama voters), which PROTECTS Islam from hate speech.

        pls come up with a definition of your so called “European style socialism” i cant hear it anymore. Maybe my expectations of political education in the US are too high but i cant see any socialism in Europe. [and please dont mock yourself with the "social insurance is socialism"-thing, social insurance is a civilization standard for the rest of the world, and if its socialism to not let ppl die for their lack of money i am proud to be a socialist!]


        In many European countries, mocking Islam is a hate crime.

        No it isn’t. At least it is far more complicated then what you are trying to implicate with you post. Mocking, satire or blasphemous comments are all clearly freedom of speech but your are right in some regard that in Europe the context of your speech can make a difference. And in most countries, the blasphemy-laws that still exist are ether dead law or would be practically impossible to prosecute because the ECtHR would nullify them. Of course, if you are a right wing nut who wants to score with the racists by telling ppl in a public speech that Muhammad was a child molester and therefor all Muslims are fans of child molesting you will be prosecuted for sedition (not sure about the translation “sedition” here).

        And boy, get your facts, in the wake of the infamous Muhammad cartoons controversy, every court ruled clearly in favor of the newspaper and freedom of speech. The only ppl who could not gasp that fact were the fundies of all kind and some lunatics from the left (mostly 70s style dogmatic M/L Antiimperialists, but those ppl are not even taken seriously from the rest of the so called “radical left”).

  • NotAProphet

    Wow, I guess islamists who plot to blow up planes/buildings/people in the USA get a free pass, since their religious sensibilities are offended by a western way of life. Is this judge really not bright enough to realise he is advocating legalising religiously-motivated terrorism!?

    I’d be surprised if it could be appealed, but there is nothing to stop the victim from bringing a civil suit. Let’s hope he does!

  • Anteprepro

    “Was the defendant’s intent to harass, annoy or alarm? Or was it his intent to try and have the offensive situation negated?” and, “I think our forefather intended that we use the First Amendment so that we could speak what’s on our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures… which is what [Perce] did.”

    Purified version: “BAAAAAAAAW! Cultural relativism, please stop the bullies from making fun of me!”.

    Ah, ’tis the regular, soothing cry of the Insufficiently Privileged Religionut. It is a very common cry, and reliable enough that one can set your watch to it, but it still is quite beautiful to observers in the right state of mind and it puts that mind at ease. Sadly, the cry often occurs immediately after as well as immediately before the Insufficiently Privileged Religionut viciously batters non-religionuts or Insufficiently Nutty Religionuts or Even Less Privileged Religonuts in a brutal display of dominance. A truly tragic affair. But, that is by no means a valid reason to not bask in the serenity of the Religionuts’ high-pitched whines for peace that one can consistently hear the moment that the glorious creatures are no longer able to beat their enemies into a pulp. It, like many things in life, is all the more beautiful due to the ugliness that it arises from. Truly, it is one of Supernature’s greatest wonders.

  • Marshill

    So let me understand this: most atheists in the US support European style socialism (democrat voters, Obama voters), which PROTECTS Islam from hate speech. You dumb atheists cannot have it both ways. The more you vote for democrats, the more you will install a country that will make criminal any public mockery of Islam. In many European countries, mocking Islam is a hate crime. Atheists make themselves look stupid by voting Obama then whining about things like this. Vote out democrats, and then you will find yourselves on good rational standing. Until then, you just look like imbeciles. Everytime you vote democrat, you vote for stripping your rights to mock Islam.

    • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

      You, sir or madam, are a fucking idiot.

      If you can find any of the atheists (at least American atheists) here who both find this case appalling and support blasphemy/hate speech laws (beyond those for simple incitement, etc.), then perhaps you would have some ground to stand on. As it stands, however, I would guess that those decrying this case are in favor of strong First Amendment protections, and certainly there are no Democrats who are pushing for laws that would make it illegal to criticize Islam.

      So fuck off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

    most atheists in the US support European style socialism (democrat voters, Obama voters), which PROTECTS Islam from hate speech.

    Citation needed.

    You dumb atheists cannot have it both ways. The more you vote for democrats, the more you will install a country that will make criminal any public mockery of Islam.

    Citation needed.

    In many European countries, mocking Islam is a hate crime.

    Citation needed.

    Atheists make themselves look stupid by voting Obama then whining about things like this. Vote out democrats, and then you will find yourselves on good rational standing. Until then, you just look like imbeciles. Everytime you vote democrat, you vote for stripping your rights to mock Islam.

    Citation needed.

    Come back when you have some.

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  • Steven Carr

    So the atheist was dressed provocatively before being attacked?

    So it was his fault?

    Well, he was asking for it, just like women who wear short skirts and low-cut tops are to blame when they get attacked.

    I think the judge has made it clear that if you are dressed provocatively, it is your fault if you get attacked.


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