Published October 12, 2012
A Washington state firefighter has been fired after 17 years on the job because he sent emails with religious content from his department account.
MyFoxSpokane.com reports that Capt. Jon Sprague, who started the Spokane County Christian Firefighter Fellowship two years ago, received his official letter of termination on Wednesday from the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Sprague said he was merely using the most efficient way to communicate with members of his fellowship and caused no harm.
"It's not like I can just walk next door and talk to another employee about some of these things," Sprague said. "We have 10 fire stations and three different shifts. The only real way is to communicate is that way."
The emails, Sprague said, were sent only to the 46 members of his fellowship and no complaints had been received.
Spokane Valley Fire Chief Mike Thompson, however, said Sprague violated department rules by using taxpayer-funded email for personal reasons. Administrators issued a direct order to stop, but Sprague was ultimately fired due to insubordination.
"All along the way we've given him a direct order, and he refused to do that," Thompson said.
Sprague, meanwhile, plans to appeal and believes the content of those emails is protected under law. He also believes the matter is a personal difference.
"Never had been disciplined in the past,” Sprague said. “Everything seems to revolve around just those emails and the Christian content.”
Sprague countered: "He can stand at the station, hand out fliers, we don't have a problem with that. He just can't use department-funded systems to do what he wanted to do.”