Chaplain fired over blog posts continues legal fight with Austin Fire Department

Andrew Fox
Andrew Fox | Alliance Defending Freedom

A former fire chaplain in Texas has filed for a judgment after claiming he was unconstitutionally fired for sharing his religious beliefs about gender and sexuality on his personal blog.

In a motion for a summary judgment filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of former Austin City Fire Chaplain Andrew Fox, the law firm Alliance Defending Freedom maintains that he was dismissed from his volunteer chaplain position in 2021 for posting his religious views on a personal blog.

"Everyone should be able to speak freely without fear of the government punishing you just for expressing a view they disagree with," ADF Senior Counsel Hal Frampton said in a statement

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"Dr. Fox served Austin's fire department — without pay — for eight years with excellence and integrity, serving everyone, including those in the LGBT community," he added. "No matter your personal view on whether men should be allowed to compete on women's sports teams, it should deeply concern every American that the government can fire someone who expresses that widely held view."

Fox, an ordained minister by the Assemblies of God, ran a personal blog where he made comments expressing opposition to "men who transition to become women and compete in an ancient tradition we call the Olympic Games."

Taking issue with "gender identity and how ridiculous it is becoming," Fox declared, "this type of ideological bosh is coming straight out of Willy Woke and the Chocolate Factory." 

"Transgender ideology does not stand up to the identity of a man and woman seen in the Book of Genesis and echoed throughout the canon of Scripture," Fox added. 

The undated blog post, written before the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, lamented "the lunacy of men competing with women as women." Expressing disgust that "the transgender ideology is blatantly hijacking the platform of athletic sport under the guise of inclusivism," Fox argued that "the result of allowing men who transition to become women and compete with women is a distortion of athletic record."

"Transgender ideology within the context of athletic sports benefits men at the expense of women," he wrote. "Men have greater levels of testosterone, cardiovascular reserve, lung capacity per body mass, denser and stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments."

Fox added: "Even if a trans male athlete meets the required testosterone levels to compete as a female, there's a whole lot more going on in the male body. Transgender ideology in this context is not just a benefit to men at the cost of women, but the ideology itself is a denial of science and fair play." 

While the filing contends that "most of the Austin Fire Department had no idea that Dr. Fox published a blog outside his volunteer chaplaincy," Battalion Chief Christine Jones became aware of it and informed the Fire Department's LGBT Liaison Lt. Xolochitl Chafino.

Chafino, who found the blog post "offensive" and "felt attacked as an LGBTQ member," urged leadership at the Fire Department to fire Fox. 

Although Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker did not initially see the need to terminate Fox, Chafino continued pushing for the chaplain's dismissal.

"To drum up complaints, Chafino printed out copies of the blog, traveled to different stations, and passed out the copies to her friends," the filing states.

After directing Fox to write two separate apology letters for the blog post, Baker fired Fox. Fox filed the lawsuit in August 2022, naming Baker and the City of Austin as defendants.

The filing characterizes the actions of the Austin Fire Department leadership as "viewpoint discrimination" inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's declaration in the 2022 decision Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. District.

In that case, the court ruled Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution "protects not only the right to harbor religious beliefs inwardly and secretly" but also "the ability of those who hold religious beliefs of all kinds to live out their faiths in daily life."

Fox and his legal team maintain that the department's actions run afoul of the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act's proclamation that "a government agency may not substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion." The lawsuit seeks a ruling protecting Fox's First Amendment rights and issuing nominal damages. 

"In our pluralistic society people disagree — often vigorously and emotionally — about religious issues," the document asserted. "The religious doctrines that make one firefighter comfortable with a given chaplain may be a dealbreaker to someone else. Not every chaplain will be the right fit for every firefighter."

"That's why public safety departments like AFD hire a variety of chaplains, therapists, and other wellness options. But neither the Constitution nor Texas law allow the government to single out, punish, and sit in judgment over certain religious views," the filing concludes. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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