PJI: Firefighter Should Not Have Been Fired for His Faith
Olympia, WA–Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is urging the Washington Supreme Court to correct an injustice after a firefighter’s religious expression led to his termination.
In 2012, Jonathan Sprague was fired from his position as a fire captain in the Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD). His offense was failing to self-censor his religious expression, which the SVFD called insubordination and unbecoming conduct.
The conflict centered around e-mails and use of an electronic bulletin board. The Fire Department sent out newsletters from an employee assistance program covering topics such as family conflict, suicide, compulsive gambling, and eating disorders. The electronic bulletin board included posts by employees selling concert tickets and seeking babysitters. But when Sprague made announcements or sent e-mails with Scripture references—some on the very same social topics introduce by the Fire Department—he was disciplined and ultimately fired.
Sprague’s termination was upheld by the Court of Appeals of Washington in a splintered decision that included three separate opinions and a strong dissent. At the request of Sprague’s attorneys, PJI filed a friend-of-the-court brief last week with the Washington Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the case. PJI argued that the lower tribunals should not have overlooked the obvious viewpoint discrimination in this case.
Brad Dacus, president of PJI, commented, “Our first responders need all the encouragement they can get. They certainly should not be fired for their religious expression. This was a miscarriage of justice that we hope the Washington Supreme Court will rectify.”
PJI was assisted locally with this brief by Seattle attorney Conrad Reynoldson of Washington Civil & Disability Advocate.
Sprague v. Spokane Valley Fire Dept