It was clearly an open and shut case of harassment but a judge in Pennsylvania didn’t see it that way and ruled against the victim. Of course, this happens sometimes in the American judicial system, only this time the ruling appears to have been entirely unconstitutional and may give conservatives a reason to ramp up their religious crusade.
Ernie Perce was seriously just walking down the street minding his own business while participating in a parade, when Talaag Elbayomy rushed from the crowd and harassed him.
Perce, an atheist, was dressed as a zombie version of Muhammad. Elbayomy, a Muslim, became offended and attacked him, grabbing Perce’s arm and trying to rip away the sign he was carrying. Open and shut, right? Wrong.
Despite admitting that Elbayomy harassed Perce, Judge Mark Martin ruled that Elbayomy had every right to do so because of Islamic law, which bans the insulting of Muhammad. In other words, Judge Martin ruled in favor of Sharia law.
Judge Martin didn’t just rule in favor of religious law, he also lectured and humiliated Perce. Martin told the court all about the time he has spent in Islamic nations and even gestured to a Koran he had in the courtroom. He then called Perce a ‘doofus.’
Here’s some of the hearing transcript, courtesy of Jonathan Turley.
“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.”
Basically, Judge Martin just ruled that Muslims can attack people who insult Muhammad. This ruling opens up a firestorm that never should have occurred in the American justice system. If one religious group can skirt US law by hiding behind their religious doctrines, every single religious group can do the exact same thing. It undermines the concept of equality under the law and obliterates the Constitution.
This ruling is the exact reason why the Founding Fathers instituted a separation of church and state. It was their intent to make civil law the law of the land. But this ruling sets a dangerous precedent. It emboldens religious groups to ask courts to rule based on their religious beliefs, and not on the civil law that applies to everyone equally, creating a general chaos in our legal system. Some religions, like Catholicism and Islam, severely restrict women’s rights. Some require different punishments for different crimes. In cases where two people of different religions are arguing their cases, judges would ultimately have to choose one religion over another. That’s why civil law is the only law in the United States, to avoid this kind of chaos.
This ruling is also going to impact the political sphere as it gives conservatives another reason to persecute Muslims and do more fear mongering over Sharia law. Conservatives can now point to an actual court case where Sharia law was used by a judge to make a ruling. And you can bet that Christian fundamentalists will shift their efforts into overdrive to make Biblical law the law of the land. Such an effort by ANY religious group is an abomination to the Constitutional values Americans have held dear for nearly 250 years. Judge Martin has clearly crossed the line and is no longer a competent judge worthy of the bench. He has put religious doctrine over the civil law he was charged to defend and therefore, is a disgrace to the robes he wears.