Late last year, a group known as the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania (PACP) won a court challenge to participate in the Millersville, PA community parade. While they were awaiting that event, they participated in a Halloween parade sponsored by the city of Mechanicsburg. Their method of expressing free speech is to dress up in costumes representing "zombie gods," figures that have risen from the dead according to various religious believers. One of those figures was a "Zombie Pope." Another was a "Zombie Mohammed," who was almost immediately assaulted by a Muslim man attending the parade. What happened in court as a result of that incident was yet another assault — on the First Amendment.
There is no dispute about what actually happened. Ernest Perce, Pennsylvania state director of American Atheists, Inc., was assaulted by Talag Elbayomy, a Muslim immigrant who admitted attacking the victim. The attack was corroborated by a videotape (depicting a disturbance, not the actual assault). Both men called police to report a crime, both kept walking, and when they ran into police Sgt. Brian Curtis and related the story, Curtis explained to Elbayomy that Perce had every right to express his constitutionally protected viewpoint. Elbayomy was subsequently arrested and charged with harassment.