Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. A nice small town of about 9,000 people. Nice people, I'm sure. Unfortunately, it seems that Mechanicsburg has a zombie problem--a holy zombie problem. Let's rewind about 4 months to October 11, 2011. Ernest Perce, a militant Atheist, decided to dress as the prophet Muhammad, zombified. Perce, a member of the “Parading Atheists of Central PA,” marched with a fellow atheist who was dressed as a zombie pope. The men were involved that night in a parade. Perce marched down the street, holding a sign that proclaimed “Muhammed [sic] of Islam.” Perce walked down the street, making zombie noises and saying, “I am the prophet Muhammad of Islam, a zombie from the dead.” He was filming this part of his walk with a very poor quality camera, presumably a cell phone. This is where the situation gets sticky.
A Muslim by the name of Talaag Elbayomy reportedly attacked Perce for insulting the Prophet. The only evidence that has presented itself consists of Perce’s word and video. Perce decided to take Elbayomy to court on the charges of assault and on the grounds that he was being denied his right to free speech. The Judge, Mark Martin, decided that there was insufficient evidence to convict Mr. Elbayomy, and he dismissed the case.
In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didn’t doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victim’s version, the defendant’s version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.
The decision to dismiss the case is not the main point of contention; instead, the judge’s prejudices have taken center stage. This case probably would not have gained much attention if the judge had not said a few things that have raised concerns over judicial bias and 1st Amendment rights suppression. Judge Martin, in a bumbling commentary, said that Mr. Perce did not understand Islam, was abusing the 1st Amendment, and was a doofus. Yes, a doofus. The claim has also been made that Judge Martin said he was Muslim. Varying reports supporting and rejecting that claim are circulating the web.
...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...
...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...
...But you have that right, but you are way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights...
The reactions to this case are varied and passionate. Many people are quite angry with the judge, and tempers are being turned against both him and Muslims in general. The judge clearly did not think much of Mr. Perce and, unfortunately, he showed it. Were his actions to his detriment? Yes, I think so. Was his decision to dismiss the case a rash action committed by a biased judge? I don't think so.
Here’s my assessment of the situation.
~ A man, who is a militant Atheist, dressed up as a zombie Muhammad and marched down the street, trying to be offensive to Muslims.
~ He is filming very poor quality video of the ground. (Why did he have a camera?)
~ The video shows a man approaching him and Perce claiming that he was being choked.
The judge had a case that consisted of one man's word against another, as well as a "video" to support Perce. The video is nothing but a very dark, confused, and blurry mass of images with the audio of the Perce taunting anyone who's a Muslim in the crowd. There's no physical evidence of an attack, aside from the audio of Perce saying that he was being choked. Think about it, he's talking while claiming to be choked.
Consider that evidence, would you have thrown out that case? I think I would have. Granted, I think the judge was out of line when he inserted his personal beliefs into the situation, but he was merely speaking of his experience with Muslims. This isn't a case where someone was beaten or raped for what they believe; this is an example in which an Atheist was mocking (and in my opinion, baiting) any Muslim who might have been in the crowd. He was confronted by a Muslim, who told him to take the sign off. Right next to him was a "Zombie Pope" who was making lewd comments about young boys. Claims have been made that if a Christian would have attacked the man, the situation in the courts would have been different. However, I think the outcome would have been the same. If a Christian had confronted the "Pope," I think the same cry of victim would have been called. Hopefully, Judge Martin will consider his wording a bit more carefully next time and not set himself up for another situation like this. I think it's time for the zombies to go back to the pages of fiction.
You can read more about this story in the Huffington Post article, here.