Koran burner Derek Fenton booted from his job at NJ Transit

NY Daily News

The protester who burned pages from the Koran outside a planned mosque near Ground Zero has been fired from NJTransit, sources and authorities said Tuesday.

Derek Fenton’s 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers.

Fenton, 39, of Bloomingdale, N.J., burned the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11 outside Park51, the controversial mosque slated to be built near Ground Zero.

He was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day but later changed his mind.

NJ Transit said Fenton was fired but wouldn’t give specifics.

“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.”

Fenton was ushered from the protests by police on Saturday and questioned, but he was released without charges.

“He said, ‘This is America,’ and he wanted to stand up for it, in a Tea Party kind of way,” a police source said.

Another police source said Fenton described himself as a “loyal American” exercising his “right to protest.”

But the source said Fenton looked like he was having second thoughts as he was released.

“He looked nervous, like he was starting to think it wasn’t such a good idea,” the police source said.

Described by neighbors as a likable family guy with two children, Fenton was an assistant train-consist coordinator, sources said – a job that entails ensuring there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service. He previously worked as an NJ Transit conductor.

Several neighbors in Fenton’s town stood up for his right to express himself with flames.

“Good for him for burning the Koran,” 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,” 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.”

If Fenton was fired for burning the Koran while off-duty, his First Amendment rights probably were violated, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said.

“The Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to burn the flag. As reprehensible as it may be, burning the Koran would be protected as well.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/09/14/2010-09-14_koran_burner_derek_fenton_fired_from_his_job_at_nj_transit.html#ixzz0zdDK2EqY

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