....there is something inherently disturbing about a public official chastising a citizen for engaging in constitutionally protected expression, however obnoxious. It is especially troubling when it's a matter of criticizing or even lampooning religion, an area in which free speech has so often been trampled.
Meanwhile, Judge Martin had before him a defendant who, by his own and his lawyer's admission, was grossly ignorant of the protections for free speech in America. Surely, a lecture on civics would not have been amiss....
The case has another worrisome aspect. While no religion has a monopoly on fanaticism, it is no secret that, for many complex reasons, religious intolerance is at present far more entrenched, more common, and more extreme in Islam than in other major religions. Some argue that violent suppression of dissent is in the nature of Islam, and insinuate that every Muslim in the West is a potential agent of sharia tyranny.
Judge Martin did not, of course, invoke sharia law as a basis for his ruling; nor did he suggest that Elbayomy would have been justified in assaulting Perce because his religion commanded it. But he did seem to suggest that insults to the Muslim faith are especially bad because of how impermissible blasphemy is in many Muslim countries and because of the role religion plays in Muslims' lives. Indeed, he specifically drew a distinction between "how Americans practice Christianity" and how Muslims practice Islam: "Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture … it’s their very essence, their very being."