Michigan Assistant Attorney General, Andrew Shirvell, was finally fired on Monday and it’s about damn time. Prior to his dismissal, the sicko had spent the last year relentlessly stalking and harassing openly gay University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong. That’s right, a 30-year old man representing the state government was acting out a peculiar obsession (or fantasy) with a 21-year old college student. It is shameful that it took so long to can this creep and the state’s tardiness clearly placed the mental health and physical wellbeing of Armstrong in jeopardy.
On Friday, Armstrong’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, also filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission against Shirvell. The five key allegations against Shirvell were:
• Putting a swastika across a photo of Armstrong’s face and publishing the picture online
• Calling Armstrong “Satan’s representative”
• Repeatedly harassing and heckling Armstrong outside his home and at other locations in and around the University of Michigan campus.
• Falsely accusing Armstrong of binge drinking and improper conduct at churches and on school grounds.
• Trying to get Armstrong removed from a summer internship in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington.
Attorney General Mike Cox, Shirvell’s boss, said he took action after a state investigation found 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. Cox concluded, however, that Shirvell’s conduct exceeded his claim of free speech when he appeared three separate times outside Armstrong’s Ann Arbor residence, including one creepy cameo 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. “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.”
In a September CNN interview, Shirvell used religion and the constitution to defend his bullying. “I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights,” he told Anderson Cooper. “I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he’s advancing a radical homosexual agenda.”
Is there any doubt that some nutty fundamentalist organizations will use this incident to falsely claim that the goal of the LGBT movement is to persecute Christians and criminalize Christianity? I suppose such claims would be true if one defines Christianity as the right for grown men to pursue college students at their home and haunt them at ungodly hours.
But, let’s get real for a minute. If it were a gay activist stalking a Christian at 1:30 AM under the guise of the First Amendment, our loving opponents would likely be advocating, to quote failed Nevada Senate nominee Sharron Angle, Second Amendment solutions.
I have no idea if Shirvell is a self-loathing gay man. But, if I were on a reality show called “Pick the Closeted Homosexual” he’d get my vote. The man comes across as gayer than Liberace in a pink wig and leopard skin hot pants.
For a moment I am going to play amateur shrink. From an outside perspective it appears that Shirvell intensely hates Armstrong because he has a crush on him and deeply resents that he is living the open, successful life he feels he can never lead. Armstrong represents the man he so desperately wants to have, as well as the complete human being he will never be as long as he is captive to an intolerant strain of Christianity. Only such a combustible combination would explain Shirvell’s psychotic obsession and extreme behavior that would take him outside Armstrong’s window at a time when a “good Christian” would otherwise be in bed sleeping.
But, let’s be clear: Shirvell is not a martyr, but a menace to society.
Beyond losing his job, he should be disbarred and if he continues his bizarre behavior he should be locked in a padded cell until he comes to his senses. Shirvell seems like a walking time bomb and Michigan officials should temporarily keep surveillance on this lunatic and provide adequate security until Armstrong is safe and secure.
While Shirvell finally paid a price for his fanaticism, similar bullying, particularly of LGBT youth, often goes unnoticed. Christians who are serious about their religion should pledge to stop such harassment by refusing to allow zealots like Shirvell to use religion as cover to justify their crazy crusades.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”