Reversed! Washington State Supreme Court Sides With Firefighter Who Was Fired for His Faith
Olympia, WA–The Washington State Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favor of a former Spokane fire captain who was fired for refusing to self-censor his religious expression.
The court held that the Spokane Valley Fire Department committed unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when it admonished and ultimately terminated Sprague. At issue were the SVFD’s e-mail and electronic bulletin board systems. The bulletin board had been used by other employees to seek babysitting and sell concert tickets, but supervisors ordered Sprague not to announce religious meetings via the same forum. The SVFD had also shared newsletters by e-mail dealing with social topics like substance abuse and conflicts with children, but Sprague’s attempts to share Biblical perspectives on the same topics got him fired.
Pacific Justice Institute was asked to participate in the case as amicus and filed a friend-of-the-court brief. PJI’s brief delved into First Amendment implications of the case that had not been fully addressed.
Brad Dacus, president of PJI, commented, “This is a terrific victory for Capt. Sprague, and an important reminder of First Amendment principles. No employee should be terminated for speaking on otherwise-permissible topics at work, just because he has a religious perspective.”
PJI was assisted in this case by Seattle affiliate attorney Conrad Reynoldson of Washington Civil and Disability Advocate.
Capt. Sprague is represented by Albrecht Law in Spokane.