UPDATE: This commentary has been corrected to reflect the judge's official reason for throwing the case out. Also, even though -- in the recording of the proceeding -- the judge seemed to say he is a Muslim convert, Judge Martin is in fact a Lutheran.
COMMENTARY | Jonathon Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote on a disturbing case in which a state judge in Pennsylvania threw out an assault case involving a Muslim attacking an atheist for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Judge Mark Martin, an Iraq war veteran, threw the case out after ruling that there was insufficient evidence. But then he berated the plaintiff in what appears to be an invocation of Sharia law.
The incident occurred at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., Halloween parade where Ernie Perce, an atheist activist, marched as a zombie Muhammad. Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim, was accused of attacking Perce. He was arrested by police.
Judge Martin threw the case out on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence, refusing to allow a grainy video of the incident to be entered in. But then he suggested to Perce that Elbayomy was obligated to attack Perce because of his culture and religion. Judge Martin stated that the First Amendment of the Constitution does not permit people to provoke other people. He also called Perce, the plaintiff in the case, a "doofus." In effect, Perce was the perpetrator of the alleged assault, in Judge Martin's view, and Elbayomy the innocent. The Sharia law that the Muslim attacker followed trumped the First Amendment.
Words almost fail.
The Washington Post recently reported on an appeals court decision to maintain an injunction to stop the implementation of an amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution that bans the use of Sharia law in state courts. The excuse the court gave was that there was no documented case of Sharia law being invoked in an American court. Judge Martin would seem to have provided that example, which should provide fodder for the argument as the case goes through the federal courts.
The text of the First Amendment could not be clearer. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof-" It does not say "unless somebody, especially a Muslim, is angered." Indeed Judge Martin specifically decided to respect the establishment of a religion, in this case Islam.
That Judge Martin should be removed from the bench and severely sanctioned goes almost without saying. He clearly had no business hearing the case in the first place, since he seems to carry an emotional bias. He also needs to retake a constitutional law course. Otherwise, a real can of worms has been opened up, permitting violence against people exercising free speech.
It should be noted that another atheist, dressed as a Zombie Pope, was marching beside the Zombie Muhammad. No outraged Catholics attacked him.