Here's the short version of this story: In Mechanicsburg, PA, some atheists did a Halloween parade. Being the touchy-feeling, sensitive sort of people atheists are, they had all sorts of nifty costumes including a "zombie Pope" and a "zombie Mohammed." While marching along, they passed a Muslim man who says that a) he didn't know that it was legal in America to portray Mohammad and b) he thought that he needed to show his little 9-year-old son that he believed in defending Mohammad. So he grabbed the atheist dressed up as the zombie Mohammad and tried to wrench off a sign that he had around his neck, partly choking him in the process. People in the crowd called 911 and both the atheist and the Muslim went looking for a cop. The Muslim was apparently under the impression that he was in England (perhaps he missed which side of the Atlantic he was on) and wanted to report the atheist for insulting Islam with his costume and sign. The atheist, of course, wanted to report the assault. The policeman questioned both and then charged the Muslim with harassment.
Now, there's gotta be some crime, if only a relatively minor one, that you get charged with if you jump a person marching in a parade and tear a sign off his neck. Whether "harassment" was the ideal crime to charge the Muslim with in this case I don't presume to say. Would assault and disorderly conduct have been better? But whatever. There has to be something. Because otherwise, if people marching in parades with signs that offend Muslims can just be grabbed and have their signs wrenched away with impunity, there's an end to a rather important aspect of free speech in America--you know, the aspect that involves being able to hold a sign on a public street making a statement that someone else might not like. Hey, just wait until the pro-aborts get hold of that idea! They could just take care of those pro-life picketers in two finger snaps. As long as they don't actually beat them up, no problem, right? The signs are "offensive" to them.
This should have been an open and shut case. But Judge Mark Martin threw the case out, with a lecture to...the atheist victim of the assault! All about how he looked like a "doofus" for implying that Mohammad was ever a zombie. (Methinks the judge doesn't grok Halloween. One of my Facebook friends dressed up as a zombie Abraham Lincoln. Also, nobody thinks the zombie Pope meant that the atheists think the Pope is believed to have...Oh, never mind.) The judge also saw fit to talk about all his years in a Muslim country (in our military, I might add) and about how seriously the Muslims take this sort of stuff and how one could be killed for insulting Mohammad in a Muslim country. Um, yes, judge, but we aren't in a Muslim country. You know? He also implied that the atheist's costume, etc., were outside the bounds of the First Amendment. Who knew? Do something offensive to Muslims, you're outside the First Amendment, bucko. Maybe the judge thinks the Muslim should have been able to get the atheist arrested, after all. The Muslim's lawyer solemnly tells us that the atheist was the "antagonist," and he obviously thinks, with some reason, that the judge agreed with him.
I hold no brief for the wonderfulness of nasty atheists being jerks. But this is not a good precedent. There is, like it or not, something to be said for the freedom to be a bit of a jerk. We absolutely cannot declare open season on people who offend Muslims, and we absolutely cannot start calling those who offend Muslims the "antagonists" as an argument for letting Muslims use physical force against them.
We have a couple of additional factors at work here that deserve special note: First of all, where did Judge Martin pick up his odd ideas? In the military. The military, where day in, day out our servicemen are being taught to defer ad infinitum to the sensibilities of Muslims. This is an unexpected and unwelcome effect of our efforts in foreign lands: We PC-train a military man. He comes back to the U.S. and becomes a judge, and he then thinks everybody in the U.S. also has to refrain from offending Muslims. He can't even seem to adjust to being back on American soil with freedom of speech and all that jazz. Second, if we didn't have all these super-touchy Muslim immigrants around pushing the envelope, we would be less likely to keep giving in to them. Can you imagine a ruling like this coming down fifty years ago? Neither can I.
My impression is that the atheist's only recourse against the Muslim is a civil suit. That, even if successful, would leave Judge Martin happily issuing his Islam-compliant orders from the bench.
Which raises another interesting legal question: Imagine a scenario in which judges dismissed charges against, say, whites who attacked blacks and lectured the blacks on needing to be less uppity and more sensitive. Surely there must be some 14th amendment recourse at some point. Talk about "nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws." Is there any way that can be brought home to judges? What if Judge Martin and his ilk took this still farther and started doing it systematically. Is impeachment the only route? I'm not a big fan of the 14th amendment, but it seems to me that there should be some sort of case here where ordinary laws against assault or harassment are not applied because the judge dislikes the ideas of the victim.