Just when you thought you were safe from ridiculous news…
The Zombie Muhammad is back – with support from a politically connected conservative Philadelphia “think tank” – demanding that Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board revisit a controversial decision of Mechanicsburg Magisterial District Judge Mark Martin and remove Martin from the bench.
Last October, Ernest Perce V – a self-professed atheist – marched in the Mechanicsburg Halloween parade as “Zombie Muhammad” with a sign around his neck reading “Muhammad of Islam” on the front.
This is the same Ernest Perce who subsequently designed a billboard erected in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill neighborhood depicting a slave with a spiked metal collar around his neck and the Biblical inscription “Slaves, obey your masters.” Homer Floyd, the former director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission said the billboard “bordered on a hate crime,” and it was quickly removed by the company that owned it.
Judge Martin became involved with Perce because as the atheist was marching as “Zombie Muhammad” a man emerged from the crowd watching the parade and attempted to pull the sign off him, which Perce described as an assault and an attempt to choke him.
The man, 46-year-old Talaag Elbayomy, was a Muslim offended by the display. Perce said he had been attacked, and police filed a summary harassment charge against Elbayomy.
Judge Martin, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who had served two tours in Iraq, dismissed the charge, noting that the law required an “intent to harass.” But Judge Martin went further, telling Perce his “Zombie Muhammad” get-up and actions in the parade not only made him look like a “doofus” but also were deeply offensive to others.
The judge attempted to explain to Perce why his actions could be offensive, saying “I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.”
Perce subsequently posted an edited recording of the hearing to the Internet in which it sounded like Judge Martin claimed he too was Muslim.
Judge Martin is a life-long Lutheran.
Nevertheless, the Internet posting inflamed conservative activists who alleged a Muslim judge in Mechanicsburg was attempting to apply Sharia Law to citizens of the United States.
The hate mail and death threats began to pour in, and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts moved Judge Martin’s office from Mechanicsburg to the county courthouse in Carlisle for the judge’s safety.
A complaint about Judge Martin was filed with the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigated and issued a private “letter of caution” to the judge in June.
Perce – with the backing of the Legal Project of the Middle East Forum – is now demanding the case be revisited and Judge Martin removed from the bench because, they claim, “He used his bench as a bully pulpit to enforce Islamic anti-blasphemy laws” and that his decision “is part of a larger and unfortunate trend to bring Sharia law into our American court system.”
The Middle East Forum is a conservative, pro-Israel group that also runs a “campus watch” to monitor Middle Eastern Studies programs on university campuses. Its board of directors includes Bob Guzzardi, a Philadelphia lawyer and political financier who has supported Rick Santorum and multiple conservative candidates for the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Judge Martin is currently in training preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.
His attorney Jay Abom said, “I don’t think anyone can credibly attack his love of the Constitution or this country and the things for which both stand.”
Abom also said the Judicial Conduct Board investigation found no probable cause to believe Judge Martin issued his ruling in any improper fashion nor any cause that he should have recused himself.
“There was no finding of any kind of wrong-doing at all,” said Abom.
The Judicial Conduct Board did not return calls for comment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from the original to include Abom’s comments and to correct an inaccuracy in the stage of Judge Martin’s current military deployment.