Wash. court to hear case of squelched religious speech

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)

gavel with Bible 1Pacific Justice Institute is trying to obtain fair treatment for a Christian fireman, taking the case to the state Supreme Court.

The case involves Jonathan Sprague, a fireman in Olympia, Washington, who decided to be as open about his faith as other firemen were about their interests. Brad Dacus, attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute, spoke with OneNewsNow about the case.

"They would post events and things coming up with them on an electronic bulletin board for the fire department," he begins. That bulletin board, according to PJI, included posts by employees selling concert tickets and babysitters.

"Well, this fireman decided to also post scripture and things that were important to him as a Christian," Dacus continues. "He was told that his speech was not allowed because it was religious."

Sprague was not only disciplined, but in 2012 was fired from his position as fire captain. His offense? Not keeping his faith to himself.

The fireman lost in the lower court system – which Dacus says was to be expected.

Dacus, Brad (PJI)"... To some degree it's no surprise because the state courts in Washington have been known to be very liberal and not exactly the most friendly when it comes to defending religious freedom, much less religious freedom for Christians," says the attorney. "Still, there are fundamental issues here dealing with protected rights that we believe are very applicable and that the state Supreme Court should take up – and take up very seriously."

PJI was invited by Sprague's attorney to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the Washington Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the case.

"This was a miscarriage of justice that we hope the Washington Supreme Court will rectify," the attorney concludes. "Our first responders need all the encouragement they can get – [and] they certainly should not be fired for their religious expression."

According to court documents, Sprague formed the Spokane Christian Firefighters Fellowship in 2011 – and controversy began when he started using the department's email system to distribute newsletters and meeting notices for that group. Those documents also state Sprague continued to use the email system after being informed it violated department policy.

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