Gavel Grab

Editorial: Reaction to Pa. Ruling is Deeply Troubling

The public outcry against a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling should be a lesson in teaching tolerance, according to a Patriot-News editorial. Judges should not have to flee their chambers seeking safety, but this is what happens when the “rule of law is subverted by the whim of politics and the jackboot of bigotry,” the editorial said.

In February, Judge Mark Martin presided over a case concerning a physical altercation between two men at a Halloween parade. One man, a self-described atheist, was dressed as Zombie Muhammad, and reported to police that he was attacked by a “Muslim bystander.” The man was charged with harassment, and the case went on to the District Court. Martin dismissed the harassment charge, commenting that there should be tolerance and “respect for the religious beliefs of others.”

Later on for reasons unclear, the editorial says, a rumor spread that the judge had “declared himself a Muslim in the courtroom and betrayed a bias in favor of the Muslim defendant.” The allegation went viral, and Martin’s office received a flood of angry phone calls, some of which threatened “physical harm.” Due to the gravity of the threats, the judge’s office was temporarily relocated to the Carlisle courthouse, which, the editorial said, “inconvenienced the public and damaged the dignity of the judicial process.”

According to the editorial, Judge Martin considers himself a Lutheran, and denies making any statement that he is a Muslim. While urging more civil discourse, the editorial added that it is all too easy to spread “exaggeration and blatant untruth” in our fast-paced society.

The editorial states that Martin was attempting to make peace between “the nonbeliever and the Muslim,” yet was undermined by those acting in haste and thinking the worst of a judicial figure. Those with the loudest opinions should not rule over all, the editorial wrote, and the country should be a “sanctuary where respect and responsibility prevail,” instead of intolerance.

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