Some atheist dude named Ernie Perce dressed up as Zombie Mohammed last Halloween, joined up with his buddy Zombie Pope, and hit the parade in their town of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Muslim Talaag Elbayomy saw them parading and was so offended that he physically attacked Perce. The whole thing was caught on tape.
Perce, who happens to be the head of the Pennsylvania chapter of American Atheists, left the parade to file a police report for assault. He wasn’t necessarily harmed, but it’s not cool to go around attacking people because you don’t like their Halloween costumes.
Elbayomy admitted guilt, but defended himself by saying that as an immigrant, he had no idea that his actions were illegal, nor that freedom of speech in America extended to representing Mohammed in any form. In fact, he stated that in accordance with his religion and Sharia law, he was required to strike Perce for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
Judge Mark Martin, an Iraq war veteran, ruled in favor of Elbayomy. And then he called Perce a name, and lectured him on religious sensitivity, telling him “if he were in a Muslim country, he’d be put to death.”
Newsflash for Judge Martin: This is not a Muslim country, it is America, where idiots have the right to be as stupid, insulting, and ignorant as they please. Of course Pence’s Zombie Mohammed costume was insulting, as well as the banner he carried in the parade, which read “The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania: Ghoulish – Godless – God = Awful.” As a Christian, I take offense to that … so I roll my eyes and move on. I don’t go attacking people for exercising their God-given and constitutionally protected right to free speech.
Judge Martin continued to ‘educate’ Perce about the perception of America that many cultures have:
…When we go to other countries it's not uncommon for people to refer to us as ugly Americans … this is why we are referred to as ugly Americans, because we are 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.
Only caring about our own rights? The only person whose rights were violated in this case was Perce, who was well within his own rights to be an obnoxious boob. Elbaymomy had the right to be offended, to engage in dialogue, and to walk away. He did not have to right to practice his religion at the expense of violating someone else’s right not to be assaulted.
Freedom of religion is awesome, but practices of it should never trump the rights of our fellow citizens.
Image via Newtown Graffitti/Flickr