Congressman Roy demands Austin Fire Department justify ‘likely unconstitutional’ firing of chaplain

WASHINGTON—On Thursday, Rep. Chip Roy (TX-21) demanded answers from the Austin Fire Department after they allegedly fired their longtime volunteer lead chaplain for exercising his First Amendment rights.

The chaplain, Dr. Andrew Fox, was fired after posting his traditional Christian beliefs about gender, and that boys should not be allowed to compete in girls’ sports, on his private blog.

“If true, these allegations create a troubling standard for the exercise of free speech and freedom of religion and are likely unconstitutional,” Rep. Roy wrote in a letter to Austin Fire Department Chief Joel Baker.

Rep. Roy pointed out that firing Dr. Fox for his beliefs flies in the face of the First Amendment and sets a concerning precedent for religious liberty and free speech in America.

“First Amendment jurisprudence is clear. The Federal Constitution prohibits the government from conditioning a benefit on the relinquishment of any First Amendment right, protects individuals’ rights to be free from viewpoint-based discrimination, and prohibits the government from imposing retribution based on what a citizen chooses to think, say or publish,” Rep. Roy concluded.

Full text of the letter can be found below and at the link here.

Chief Baker,

 

It has come to my attention that the Austin Fire Department allegedly fired volunteer lead chaplain Dr. Andrew Fox last December in retribution for exercising his First Amendment rights. The complaints raised in the lawsuit are justly concerning. If true, these allegations create a troubling standard for the exercise of free speech and freedom of religion and are likely unconstitutional.

 

First Amendment jurisprudence is clear. The Federal Constitution prohibits the government from conditioning a benefit on the relinquishment of any First Amendment right, protects individuals’ rights to be free from viewpoint-based discrimination, and prohibits the government from imposing retribution based on what a citizen chooses to think, say or publish, in addition to other virtues.

 

As a member of Congress representing the Austin area, I respectfully request answers to the following questions by September 8, 2022:

 

1. Was Dr. Andrew Fox removed from his position as lead chaplain because of his religious opinions expressed in his personal blog?

 

2. Is the Austin Fire Department currently reviewing the employment status of any employees for their personal deeply held beliefs including but not limited to boys playing in girls’ sports, traditional marriage, transgenderism, or political affiliation?

 

3. Is it the belief of the Austin Fire Department that the removal of Dr. Fox was not a violation of the First Amendment?

 

4. Does the Austin Fire Department consider religious beliefs or expression when making hiring and firing decisions?

 

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

Chip Roy

Member of Congress

 

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