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Former Austin Fire chaplain sues city over blog post about transgender athletes

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man who served as the Austin Fire Department’s senior chaplain is suing the AFD chief and the city of Austin, claiming he was wrongfully fired because of his views on athletes transgender people he posted on a personal blog.

Andrew Fox is an ordained minister who volunteered with AFD for eight years and helped launch the department’s chaplaincy program, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in the Austin Division of the U.S. District Court of western district of Texas.

Fox claims the city and Chief Joel G. Baker “violated his First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion, and violated the Texas Constitution.” The lawsuit said AFD executives asked Fox to “retract and apologize” for publishing his views, and when Fox refused, he was fired.

The Austin Fire Department released a statement Thursday to KXAN regarding the lawsuit:

“The Austin Fire Department appreciates Dr. Fox’s service as a volunteer chaplain. However, we do not dwell on matters involving staff and/or persons affiliated with our department in an official capacity. »

The blog post in question was published in July 2021, according to the lawsuit. Fox expressed his view that “men and women are created biologically distinct and… men shouldn’t compete on women’s sports teams.”

A few meetings took place between Fox, the deputy head of AFD and Baker about the blog post. Fox also met an LGBTQ member of AFD. During a meeting in October 2021, handwritten anonymous comments were made to Fox about his post.

“Several comments accused Dr. Fox of male chauvinism, racism and transphobia,” the lawsuit states. The comments also raised concerns that some members of the fire department may not feel comfortable asking Fox for help because of his views, according to the lawsuit.

Prior to this blog post, the lawsuit claims that Fox was never alerted to issues with the beliefs he posted.

Fox was later informed that Baker wanted him to write a formal apology letter to the LGBT community and AFD. The lawsuit said Fox sent a draft letter in November 2021; it was rejected. The lawsuit claims the executives “wanted Dr. Fox to include an explicit apology for expressing his views and the harm allegedly caused by doing so.”

Fox decided that he would not deny his beliefs.

The lawsuit said a formal termination letter was emailed to Fox in December. Fox believes that “based on information and belief, Chief Baker made the decision alone to terminate Dr. Fox from his position.”

As part of the lawsuit, Fox seeks reinstatement as AFD’s senior chaplain, for a statement from the city and Chief Baker that they violated his freedom of speech, and for compensatory damages, among others.

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