Captain Jon Sprague served as a firefighter in Spokane Valley, Washington, for 17 years before being dismissed on Wednesday. The termination, he claims, came as a result of Christian-themed e-mails he sent to fellow firefighters. While Sprague maintains that he did nothing wrong, Spokane Valley Fire Chief Mike Thompson says that he violated department rules when he used his taxpayer-funded e-mail account to send the faith-based messages.
Two years ago, Sprague started the Christian Firefighter Fellowship as part of a local support group for his co-workers. Since his fellow firemen were spread out, he said that e-mail was the most efficient way for him to communicate with the group.
"It's not like I can just walk next door and talk to another employee about some of these things," Sprague explained. "We have 10 fire stations and three different shifts. The only real way is to communicate is that way."
The messages apparently went out to 46 members of the Christian Firefighter Fellowship and, according to the now-terminated firefighter, the e-mails weren't problematic and no one complained as a result of receiving them.
But Thompson said that sending the e-mails was a violation of department rules and that using the account for personal reasons isn't allowed. According to the chief, he was ordered to stop using the account to send emails and after direct orders and disciplinary action, he was fired for alleged insubordination.
"All along the way we've given him a direct order, and he refused to do that," Thompson said, according to My Fox Spokane. "[Sprague] 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."
This distinction is intriguing. While the firefighter would be allowed to give out Christian materials in a government-funded station, he is forbidden from using "department-funded systems." Despite his dismissal, Sprague is planning to defend himself and to appeal the decision, as he believes the incident may be more rooted in personal issues than actual violations of code.
"Never had been disciplined in the past. Everything seems to revolve around just those emails and the Christian content," he said.
(H/T: My Fox Spokane)