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Dr. Andrew FoxYouTube / Screenshot

AUSTIN, Texas (Alliance Defending Freedom) — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a former volunteer chaplain of the Austin Fire Department, Dr. Andrew Fox, filed a motion Tuesday asking a federal court to protect his free speech and religious freedom after city officials fired him for sharing his religious views on his personal blog.

Fox is an ordained minister who helped start Austin’s fire chaplaincy program and served as the city’s lead chaplain – a volunteer position – for eight years. After sharing on his personal blog the fact that men and women are biologically different and his view that men should not compete on women’s sports teams, city officials demanded that Fox apologize, and then they proceeded to fire him. ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Fox v. City of Austin, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, in 2022 asking the court to uphold Fox’s First Amendment rights.

“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. “Dr. Fox served Austin’s fire department – without pay – for eight years with excellence and integrity, serving everyone… 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.”

As the brief in support of the motion for summary judgment explains, fire department officials highly respected Fox for the work he had done to walk side by side with first responders and their families, providing a listening ear and source of prayer as they encountered deaths, suicides, and other tragedies. Most fire department employees were unaware of Fox’s personal blog, but when one employee contacted the fire department’s LGBT liaison and complained about his blog post about men competing in women’s sports, he was eventually fired in violation of his First Amendment rights.

“[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 allow the government to single out, punish, and sit in judgment over certain religious views.”

Fox served in a voluntary capacity as lead chaplain of the Austin Fire Department for eight years until his dismissal in December 2021.

Reprinted with permission from the Alliance Defending Freedom.