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Fire Chaplain Says He Was Fired for Sharing Religious Beliefs

Dr. Andrew Fox via Facebook
Dr. Andrew Fox via Facebook

A former Texas fire chaplain has filed a motion asking a federal court to protect his free speech and religious freedom after city officials allegedly fired him for sharing his religious views on his blog.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal group, filed a motion Tuesday on behalf of Dr. Andrew Fox.

Fox is an ordained minister who helped start Austin's fire chaplaincy program and served as its lead chaplain "faithfully serving the spiritual needs of Austin's firefighters," according to the lawsuit filed by ADF. 

But in 2022, he shared his belief that biological men should not compete on women's sports teams due to significant physiological differences.

As CBN News reported, Fox claimed he was dismissed from the department after an unknown number of individuals at the fire department "anonymously complained" about the nature of his posts. 

"The issue is about gender identity and how ridiculous it is becoming. So let me be clear, this type of ideological bosh is coming straight out of Willy Woke and the Chocolate Factory," he wrote on his blog

"I was asked to recant on those views and then write a letter of apology for those views, and, of course, I did not do that," he later explained in a Fox News interview. 

The ADF says the city of Austin and Fire Chief Joel G. Baker violated Fox's First Amendment right to free speech and exercise of religion and violated the Texas Constitution. 

"Everyone should be able to speak freely without fear of the government punishing you just for expressing a view they disagree with," said ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton. 

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"Dr. Fox served Austin's fire department—without pay—for eight years with excellence and integrity, serving everyone, including those in the LGBT community. No matter your personal view on whether men should be allowed to compete on women's sports teams, it should deeply concern every American that the government can fire someone who expresses that widely held view," he continued.

The ADF is asking a Texas federal court to grant a summary-judgment motion protecting his free speech and religious freedom and to award nominal damages. 

"(I)n our pluralistic society people disagree—often vigorously and emotionally—about religious issues," the brief explains. "The religious doctrines that make one firefighter comfortable with a given chaplain may be a dealbreaker to someone else. Not every chaplain will be the right fit for every firefighter. That's why public safety departments like AFD hire a variety of chaplains, therapists, and other wellness options." 

"But neither the Constitution nor Texas law allows the government to single out, punish, and sit in judgment over certain religious views," it adds. 

The Austin Fire Department released a statement to CBN News regarding the lawsuit filed in 2022.

"The Austin Fire Department appreciates Dr. Fox's service as a volunteer chaplain," it read. "However, we do not expound on matters involving personnel and/or those affiliated with our department in an official capacity."

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