Fired For Setting Fire to a Koran - Even ACLU Supports the Protester!

by PAUL L. WILLIAMS, PHD September 16, 2010
The rights of all Americans are in jeopardy!
So says the American Civil Liberties Union which has come to the defense of a New Jersey state worker who was fired for putting a match to pages from the Koran outside a planned mosque near Ground Zero in midtown Manhattan.
Derek Fenton’s 11 year career came to a screeching stop when photographs of him burning pages from the Muslim holy book appeared in newspapers and on the internet.
Mr. Fenton, a resident of Bloomingdale, New Jersey, was fired even though he performed his act of protest in commemoration of 9/11 while off-duty and miles from his place of employment.
"Mr. Fenton's public actions violated New Jersey Transit's code of ethics," an agency statement said.
"NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed."
But Mr. Fenton’s off-duty firing is being condemned an affront to the freedom of all Americans.
Attorney Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said that Mr. Fenton’s First Amendment rights have been violated, noting that the Supreme Court “has recognized a constitutional right to burn the flag. Burning the Koran would be protected as well.”
Others have come to Mr. Fenton’s defense.
"Good for him for burning the Koran," his neighbor Jacqui Marquez, 40, said. "Everybody's entitled to their opinion ... by firing him, they're sending a message that there's no freedom of speech. They're completely wrong for doing this."
"He's a family man," another neighbor Randy McConnell, 43, said. "He loves his kids and he loves trains. I don't agree with what he did, but he shouldn't lose his job over it. That's his right."
Mr. Fenton’s act, which has caused riots in Iran, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, was not without justification.
The Center for Security Policy, a Washington think-tank, today urged the Obama Administration to abandon its position that Islam is not linked to terrorism.
Mr. Fenton, who has been described as a likable family guy with two children, served as an assistant train-consist coordinator for New Jersey Transit - - a job that entails ensuring there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service.
When taken into custody by New York police officials after striking the match, Mr. Fenton said that he was a “loyal American,” exercising his right to protest.
He was released without charges.
Strange to say, no member of the U.S. military was fired or taken to task over burning of hundreds of Bibles at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in May 2009.
Defending the Bible burning, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said: “The decision was made that it was a 'force protection' measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims.” Contributing Editor Paul L. Williams, Ph.D., is the author of The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World, The Al Qaeda Connection, and other best-selling books. He is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR. Visit his website at

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