JudicialLocal NewsFormer Austin Fire Department Chaplain Sues City, Alleging First Amendment Infringement

Dr. Andrew Fox is seeking reinstatement and a public apology from the Austin Fire Department after he was terminated.
August 19, 2022
In December 2021, the Austin Fire Department (AFD) dismissed Dr. Andrew Fox from his role as volunteer chaplain. 

Fox, an ordained minister, served for eight years before he was dismissed. He claims that the reason for his termination revolves around blog posts he uploaded to his personal web page.

On August 18th, Fox and his attorneys filed suit against AFD Chief Joel Baker and the City of Austin in federal court in the Western District of Texas.  His attorneys allege that the termination infringed upon Dr. Fox’s First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

Fox is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian advocacy organization. 

The post in question expressed disagreement with the prospect of ”men who transition to become women” participating in women’s sports.

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In the post he writes, “The result of allowing men who transition to become women and compete with women is a distortion of athletic records, especially in the disciplines of field, track, and swimming.”

“Lawmakers have already drafted measures to prevent male high-school students who transition to become female competing with female students.”

According to the complaint, anonymous AFD staff took issue with the post, claiming that his comments made them feel uncomfortable. Responding to these complaints, AFD Chief Joel Baker urged Fox to recant his statements and publicly apologize to the department.

When Fox declined to apologize and remove the post, he was subsequently dismissed.

In ADF’s press release regarding the case, Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert wrote, “Everyone should be able to speak freely without fear of the government coming after you.”

“Dr. Fox served Austin’s fire department — without pay — for eight years with excellence and integrity, treating everyone equally, including those in the LGBT community.” 

Regarding the purpose of this lawsuit, Dr. Fox told The Texan, “I am looking to right a wrong. I have been asked to apologize for holding orthodox, widely held beliefs. I argued that men and women are different and that it is unfair for biological men to compete against women.” 

“I have been discriminated against for that view by a government entity, and I want that to be rectified completely. I would like to be reinstated and I would like a public apology.”

He continued, “I have had a perfect track record, I have even received awards for service in excellence. That record is now broken.”

Regarding ADF’s interest in the case, attorney Kelly Howard said, “We are committed to protecting religious freedom and free speech. When we heard Dr. Fox’s case, it just aligned with what we stand for as an organization.”

Fox also lamented that his chaplaincy services are no longer available to AFD personnel. 

He said, “One of the great losses here is the firefighters themselves. It is a very huge department, and I provided chaplaincy resources to those individuals and their families. 

“Firefighters are incredible individuals who help people in the worst times of crisis, and I was there to help them. They have lots of resources available to them, but they no longer have my chaplaincy services. I am sorry for that loss.”

In an official statement to The Texan, an Austin city spokesperson said, “We will follow our regular process to respond to any lawsuit brought against the City.”


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Hudson Callender

Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.