New Jersey To Rehire Transit Worker Fired For Burning Quran

Originally published on April 22, 2011 6:56 pm

New Jersey Transit will rehire a man who was fired after burning a Quran. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey brought a suit on behalf of Derek Fenton, who was fired for burning a Quran last year on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

According to settlement papers released by the ACLU, Fenton will get back his $86,110-a-year position, receive backpay at a rate of $331.20 per day since he was fired and he'll receive $25,000 for "Mr. Fenton's pain and suffering." The settlement also states that Fenton will not have to "disavow or recant that conduct" and will not have to undergo any "sensitivity training."

"Our government cannot pick and choose whose free speech rights are protected, based on whether or not they approve of the content of our statements or actions," Fenton said in a statement. "This is the very essence of the First Amendment."

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that Fenton was fired after he attended a protest at the site of the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan, tore three pages from the Quran and set them on fire.

"At the time, Fenton was off duty and did not publicly link himself to NJ Transit," reports the Star-Ledger. The paper adds that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie supported Fenton's firing:

In February, Christie said he didn't ask for the dismissal but called it appropriate because "that kind of intolerance is ... unacceptable."

"I knew he was going to be fired, and I had no problem with it," Christie said at the time. "And I still don't have a problem with it."

In its complaint, the ACLU said Fenton was fired for violating New Jersey Transit's "code of ethics," but the ACLU argued Fenton's firing violated his constitutional rights.

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