Spokane Valley Captain Pushing Right to Send Religious Emails

A Washington state fire captain is contesting discipline handed down over his use of the fire department email system to deliver religious messages.

Spokane Valley Fire Department Captain Jon Sprague was suspended without pay for two 24-hour shifts for conduct unbecoming and violating an order.

Captain Sprague is the founder of a Christian support group, the Spokane County Christian Firefighter Fellowship. He uses the department’s email system to send out announcements for meetings and events as well as a monthly newsletter.

In January Captain Sprague was cautioned about the improper use of the email system. In April he was issued a letter of counseling and in May he received a letter of reprimand. The 2 day suspension was issued on June 27, 2012.

Captain Sprague was quoted in the Spokesman Review  as saying he has no intention of stopping. “Personally, it’s a matter of faith and conscience.”

IAFF Local 876 has filed a grievance over the discipline and Captain Sprague has filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging a 1st Amendment violation and religious discrimination. Also at issue is the fact that other firefighters have used the email system to send non-fire department related messages, such as for fundraisers.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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