Dr. Andrew Fox served as the lead chaplain for the department in a voluntary capacity for eight years. But after sharing his religious views on his personal blog, on his own time, city officials demanded that he recant and apologize for the harm his comments had allegedly caused.
He did apologize, explaining his intent was not to offend but to foster discussion. But city officials found his apology insufficient – so in December 2021, he was dismissed from the department.
Attorney Kelly Howard of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Dr. Fox, an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God.
"He would share religious thoughts, theology, philosophy; and last summer, he was writing about men participating in women's sports, which was not taken too well by some anonymous members of the fire department," she tells AFN. "After a few months, he ended up being fired … for speaking freely on his blog."
Fox v. City of Austin has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The filing points out that during his tenure with the fire department, Fox was never accused of discriminating against anyone or treating anyone improperly. In fact, the city lauded him for his integrity and service. None of that mattered to city officials, however, according to ADF.
"This wasn't even related to his duties at the fire department," Howard adds. "That [he was fired] should concern anyone who perhaps has a blog of their own or maybe they write a letter of opinion to the local newspaper.
"… Even if you don't agree with Dr. Fox's views, [this is something that] should definitely be concerning."
The complaint filed by ADF requests that Fox be reinstated to his former position as lead chaplain; that the city cease enforcing policies that punish individuals for expressing constitutionally protected messages about gender-identity and women's sports; that the city declare it violated Dr. Fox's rights; and he be awarded compensatory damages caused by the city's actions, as well as attorneys' fees.
After immigrating from England to the United States in 1999, Fox pastored a church in the Kennewick, Washington, area, where he eventually became an official volunteer chaplain for the Kennewick Police Department. He then took a position as an interim pastor at a church in Wichita, Kansas, before then moving his family to Austin in 2012.