Former Austin fire chaplain suing city for firing him over blog posts

Dr. Andrew Fox (Alliance Defending Freedom)

A former volunteer chaplain for the Austin Fire Department has filed suit against the city of Austin, alleging they fired him for sharing his religious views on sex and gender on his personal blog.

Attorneys for nonprofit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit Thursday in federal court on behalf of Dr. Andrew Fox, an ordained minister who served as AFD's lead chaplain for eight years until his dismissal in December.

The complaint alleges that the city fired Fox after he posted on his personal blog last summer about "his religious belief that men and women are created biologically distinct and his view that men should not compete on women’s sports teams". 

As written in the complaint, AFD officials allegedly met with Fox multiple times to discuss concerns from LGBTQ members of the department about the blog posts. Fox was also allegedly instructed to write a letter about the posts, which the complaint says Chief Joel Baker, who is also named as a defendant, "wanted Dr. Fox to include an explicit apology for expressing his views and the harm allegedly caused by doing so."

The complaint is seeking the following in relief:

  • A permanent injunction requiring the city to reinstate Dr. Fox as Lead Chaplain and stop "enforcing its policies and practice of taking adverse actions against Dr. Fox and other City personnel for expressing constitutionally protected messages of private citizens about matters of public concern related to gender-identity and women’s sports"
  • A declaration that the city violated his First Amendment rights
  • Compensatory damages including, but not limited to damages for the humiliation, emotional distress, inconvenience, and loss of reputation caused by the defendants’ actions and statements, lost revenue and lost profits
  • Nominal damages for violating Dr. Fox’s federal constitutional rights
  • Reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses 
  • Injunctive relief without a condition of bond or other security required of Dr. Fox
  • Prejudgment interest on any pecuniary awards provided
  • All other relief the Court deems "just and equitable"

A spokesperson for the city of Austin released a statement on the lawsuit, saying:

"The City of Austin heard of the lawsuit through the news media but has not received a lawsuit yet. When we do, we’ll follow our regular process to respond to a lawsuit brought against the City."

Read the full complaint here