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
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, and yesterday’s FOT guest, 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.