National Catholic Register


Four Words That Can Get You Fired


July 23 - August 5, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/23/06 at 9:00 AM


Why exactly was Robert Smith fired?

We know why Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich says he was fired. Smith’s termination from the Metro Transit Authority Board came only days after he said The Wrong Thing on a local Montgomery County cable show.

The Washington Post reported that Smith — a long-time member of the show’s panel of political commentators — said, during a back-and-forth about federalism and the homosexual agenda, that government should not “proffer a special place of entitlement within the laws of the United States for persons of sexual deviancy.”

Persons of sexual deviancy.

Exit, Robert Smith.

“Robert Smith’s comments were highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable,” said Ehrlich, in announcing the firing, which apparently was prompted not only by the remarks themselves, but by Smith’s refusal to retract them to fellow board member Jim Graham, who, describing himself as “an openly gay elected official,” demanded either an apology or the termination.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, a Democrat eager to unseat Ehrlich this fall, said “Smith’s hateful and mean-spirited comments suggest that he is unfit to serve the public, and his immediate removal is wholly justified.”

“I know how dedicated Bob Smith is,” said Dennis Jaffe, chairman of the Riders Advisory Council, who had worked closely with Smith in the last few months, “but his comments … are most unfortunate and reflect poorly on Metro as an agency.”

Notice what people are not saying? “Bob Smith wasn’t good at his job.”

In fact, by many accounts, Smith was very good at his job — unusually attentive and committed to even the numbing detail work of administrating a major transit system. The Post itself condenses his two years on the Metro board approvingly:

“Almost immediately after he was appointed, Smith drew attention by questioning expenses at the agency, criticizing spending on promotional materials and other items he considered luxuries. He read lengthy budget documents that other board members tend to skim and asked sharp questions of finance managers.”

Well, we can’t have someone like that in city government, can we?

No, the only thing contributing to Smith’s abrupt departure is that ominous phrase: persons of sexual deviancy.

Let’s examine those words for a moment.

Now, surely those who practice homosexual behavior can’t have a problem with the term, “persons.” That word goes to the heart of their public agenda: “Homosexuals are people, too.”

Nor should “sexual” be a particularly objectionable term, since, like Graham, most advocates of homosexual behavior make it a point to define themselves in terms of their sexual choices. True, they’ll point out (as Smith did) that they are persons first and practitioners of homosexual behavior second. And yet, it is their sexuality that drives their politics, their public statements, their private lives. It is the homosexual activists who insist on filtering every aspect of society and culture through the prism of their sexual proclivities.

Which brings us to the real source of the outrage: “deviancy.” Webster’s defines it as behavior that differs “from an accepted norm.” Is there, in fact, any other way to define homosexual behavior? Those who engage in such behavior themselves take great pride in pointing out its distinctions from traditional norms. The crux of their entire political agenda is the assertion that homosexual behavior is persecuted for being different, and so needs the protections and affirmations that only government can provide. The essential mantra of the movement is not, “Help me be like everyone else,” but “Embrace me for being different.”

So, again, the question: What exactly did Smith say that was so “inappropriate, insensitive, and unacceptable,” if he described devotees of homosexual behavior in terms milder than many they use to describe themselves on hundreds of websites and talk shows and parade posters?

Smith didn’t call for the annihilation or imprisonment of those who practice homosexual behavior. He didn’t use any derogatory slurs or crude names. He didn’t go off on a rant. So what exactly was “hateful and mean-spirited?”

For that matter, how did his comments “reflect poorly on Metro as an agency?” Smith is, by common consensus, a public servant of unusual merit, skill and commitment, who takes seriously the responsibilities entrusted to him. He spoke words that accurately communicate the identity and ambitions of those practicing homosexual behavior. And he spoke those words on his own time, in a context not related to his job, out of the deepest religious convictions of his soul, and expressing one of the enduring tenets of a Catholic religion embraced by well over a billion people, worldwide.

In other words, Bob Smith wasn’t fired for what he said. He was fired for what he believes, by a governor intimidated by a culture that is increasingly intolerant of — and hostile to — anyone who takes seriously the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Mike Johnson is senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.