Diversity and free speech are often diametrically opposed values. The phenomenon was neatly displayed in the recent Pennsylvania case involving an atheist protestor, an enraged Muslim and a lower court judge who apparently believes that the sensibilities of violent Islam trump the First Amendment.[Judge in 'Zombie Muhammad' case, faced with threats, moves from Mechanicsburg to Carlisle office, By Matthew Kemeny, The Patriot-News, February 29, 2012]
The atheist, Ernest Pence V, decided last year to dress up as "Zombie Muhammad" for the Mechanicsburg Halloween Parade. Tasteless, perhaps, but what followed was worse. Talaag Elbayomy, er, a local Muslim, rushed out and assaulted Pence.
Charges were filed.
But Mark Martin, a "district justice" (lower court judges who decide if there's enough evidence for a case to go forward), dismissed the charge. He turned his anger not on the defendant, but the victim. He apparently suggested that in a Muslim country, Pence would suffer a far worse fate.
Obvious problem: this is the United States. We are not a Muslim country. Moreover, we have a First Amendment that protects one of our most cherished values, free speech. Even for snotty atheists.
“David Hume” over at Secular Right picks up the report that the defendant thought it was, in America, a crime to disparage Muhammad.
But for me this is the most important point: “According to ABC 27, Elbayomy thought it was a crime to depict Muhammad and had joined Perce in calling police.” How is it that we allow immigrants into this country who don’t even understand the importance of free speech in American society? Secondarily, how is it that, even if the judge did not have enough evidence to support the allegations of assault, did not lecture the alleged attacker that in his adopted nation free speech is close to inviolable?[Respecting the law of the land]
But with judges like Mark Martin on the bench, he could be forgiven.
The uneven application is pretty obvious, of course: imagine an anti-immigration activist physically assaulting a marcher in an illegal alien parade. Or a white person opposed to affirmative action attacking a black person demonstrating for it. Judge Martin, I am sure, would think differently of those scenarios.
Here's one judge who gets it.