Assistant AG fired for harassing gay Mich. student

TIM MARTIN | Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — An assistant state attorney general accused of harassing the gay student assembly president at the University of Michigan was fired Monday, Nov. 8.

Andrew Shirvell, 30, went on leave about a month ago after national criticism erupted over a blog he wrote characterizing student leader Chris Armstrong as a “racist” and a “liar” who promoted a “radical homosexual agenda.”

Shirvell’s attorney has said his actions were constitutionally protected as free speech. Shirvell had attended the first day of a disciplinary hearing Friday and expected that hearing to continue later this week, but then was called in and fired.

Attorney General Mike Cox said the firing came after a state investigation revealed that Shirvell “repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources.”

“To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be,” Cox said in a statement.

But he said Shirvell’s conduct went beyond free speech when he showed up three separate times outside Armstrong’s Ann Arbor home, including once at 1:30 a.m.

“That incident is especially telling because it clearly was about harassing Mr. Armstrong, not engaging in free speech,” Cox said.

Armstrong, 21, has accused Shirvell of videotaping a late-night party at his off-campus house, showing up at campus appearances with a sign that read “racist” and “liar,” and lambasting him on his blog. Armstrong had filed for a personal protection order against Shirvell but withdrew that request late last month.

His lawyer applauded the decision and said the state should go further and revoke Shirvell’s law license.

“This clearly is the correct decision by the attorney general’s office,” Deborah L. Gordon said in a statement. “The next step must be a complete retraction of all the malicious lies and fabrications by Mr. Shirvell, and a public apology to Mr. Armstrong, his family and others Mr. Shirvell has slandered.”

Shirvell’s lawyer, Philip Thomas, said his client has not yet decided if he will appeal the decision to the Michigan Civil Service Commission.

“It was very obvious something political had occurred, and I couldn’t imagine what that would be,” Thomas said.

Cox said the investigation found that Shirvell harassed Armstrong’s friends as they were socializing in Ann Arbor and made numerous calls to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while Armstrong was working there as an intern “in an attempt to slander Armstrong — and ultimately attempting to cause Pelosi to fire Armstrong,” Cox said. He added that Shirvell attempted to “out” Armstrong’s friends as being homosexual, even though several weren’t gay.

The investigation revealed that while at work during normal business hours, Shirvell called Pelosi’s office and posted attacks on Armstrong on the Internet. He also lied to investigating assistant attorneys general on several occasions during Friday’s disciplinary hearing, Cox said.

“The cumulative effects of his use of state resources, harassing conduct that is not protected by the First Amendment and his lies during the disciplinary conference all demonstrate adequate evidence of conduct unbecoming a state employee,” Cox said.

Shirvell, one of about 250 lawyers in the attorney general’s office, handled cases in which convictions are appealed in federal court, writing defenses for the state. It was not a management or supervisory position.

The 2002 University of Michigan graduate is allowed on university’s Ann Arbor campus but with restrictions. He’s not allowed to make physical or verbal contact with Armstrong nor can he be in the same place as the student when it’s likely Armstrong will be present.

—  John Wright

Let’s all get aboard the crazy train!

Lately the crazy train has picked up speed. I don’t know if it’s the upcoming midterm elections or people are scared by gay court victories or what, but we’re in a period of nutty.

Take David Barton. Please.

An evangelical minister, teacher at (Glenn) Beck University and former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Barton — a self-styled historian — is the founder of WallBuilders, a group devoted to the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation.

On his WallBuilders radio show recently, Barton discussed with Rick Green how health-conscious America is, regulating cigarettes and trans fats and salt, yet allowing something to slip through that is such an obvious threat to the health of Americans: Jersey Shore.

Okay, he didn’t say that. Instead, Barton reeled off fanciful statistics, like, “Homosexuals die decades earlier than heterosexuals,” and “nearly one-third [of homosexuals] admit to a thousand or more sex partners in a lifetime.”

Barton said, “I mean, you go through all this stuff, sounds to me like that’s not very healthy. Why don’t we regulate homosexuality?” That’s the moment he boarded the crazy train.

Barton, the quack historian, cited a 1920s study that found nations that “rejected sexual regulation like with homosexuality” didn’t last “past the third generation from the time that they embraced it.”

Have gays been embraced? When will the third generation appear? It’s important to know when we’re supposed to make this country collapse. We have a schedule to keep.

Rick Green’s role in this production was to be properly aghast that the breathtakingly unhealthy gay lifestyle is promoted and protected.

That makes Green — recently a candidate for the Texas Supreme Court — the porter on the crazy train.

If David Barton wants the government to regulate gay sex, Andrew Shirvell’s goal is much more modest. But Shirvell is the conductor on the crazy train. For almost six months, Shirvell has railed in a blog against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay University of Michigan student assembly president.

Shirvell, a Michigan grad, accused Armstrong of so many things — including being anti-Christian, hosting a gay orgy, trying to recruit freshmen to be gay and, my favorite, sexually seducing a conservative student and influencing him to the point that he “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda.”

Good strategy, that seduction. Armstrong should be able to convert everybody on campus by the time he’s 106.
During his anti-Armstrong crusade, Shirvell protested outside Armstrong’s house, and called him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.”Paranoid much? All this would be plenty bad enough, but the fact that Shirvell is a Michigan assistant attorney general launches the affair into the realm of the bizarre. Rod Serling couldn’t have made this up.

Shirvell’s boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, cited the guy’s right to free speech, while also telling CNN he’s a “bully.” Cox said that Shirvell’s “immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.”

This is more than a case of bad judgment. Shirvell is obsessed with Armstrong’s homosexuality. I have to wonder if Shirvell — now on a voluntary leave of absence — is an immense closet case, or a few ties short of a railroad track.

Either explanation or both might apply to Fred Phelps, leader of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, but it’s his daughters who recently clambered on the crazy train.

Margie Phelps recently represented Westboro at the Supreme Court in the dispute over protests at military funerals, and after, while addressing the press, she and sister Shirley Phelps-Roper broke into song. They warbled a few lines of a variation on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Osbourne declared his displeasure that they used his music to advance “despicable beliefs.”

When the Prince of Darkness looks civilized compared to you, your caboose is loose.

Leslie Robinson assumes the Phelps daughters will never sing Indigo Girls.  E-mail Robinson at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and visit her blog at GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas