Derek Fenton is described by his neighbors as "a likable family guy with two children." For the last eleven years he has supported his family by working for the New Jersey Transit. His responsibility is to ensure there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service. In other words, Derek Fenton is just a normal Joe who works at one of the thousands of important but obscure jobs that make this country run. There is nothing political about his work. Count the cars, make sure they're where they should be. That's it. His political musings as he moves the cars around or what he does in his off-time are irrelevant…or at least they were.
Yesterday, NJ Transit fired Mr. Fenton. They refused to give specifics other than the following statement:
Mr. Fenton's public actions violated New Jersey Transit's code of ethics.…NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed.
Mr. Fenton's "violated his trust" last Saturday, Sept 11, 2010, during a demonstration outside the proposed Ground Zero Mosque. Allegedly Mr. Fenton tore pages from the Koran and set them on fire. He was escorted from the crowd by police and questioned, but was released. No charges were filed. So according to the police, at least, Mr. Fenton didn't do anything but exercise his free-speech rights.
But NJ Transit didn't see it that way. As a result, they fired him. Let's be sure we understand the implications of this. They fired him for making a political and religious statement, nothing more. He wasn't disturbing the peace, inciting to riot, calling for treasonous rebellion. No, Mr. Fenton hurt someone's feelings, which is evidently an actionable offense if you work for NJ Transit.
Even the New York Civil Liberties Union, a staunch defender of the proposed mosque, said that Mr. Fenton's First-Amendment rights were "probably" violated. They also released a statement observing that water was "probably" wet.
I am amazed that the people running around hysterically shouting about "Freedom of Religion" and "Freedom of Speech" are often the same people who would deny those freedoms to someone like Derek Fenton. But it's always been this way it seems. Those who wouldn't raise an eyebrow about a crucifix in a jar of urine were horrified by Danish Cartoons depicting the many faces of Muhammed. If I didn't firmly believe this blatant double standard to be the result of a world in active rebellion against the LORD and his Anointed One (Ps 2:2), I'd be completely mystified.
For the record, I'm not in favor of burning the Koran. In the mean time, Mr. Fenton should consider the instruction of the Apostle Paul:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:17-18 NIV 84)
That being said, NJ Transit should recognize they have not been charged with enforcing this directive by Paul either. NJ Transit, you have been charged to move people from point A to point B, nothing more. You're not the police. No one has appointed you Grand Inquisitor.
So here's my recommendation to NJ Transit: Find the self-appointed Torquemada who made the decision to fire Derek Fenton, and give him the sack instead.