In the ultra-liberal capital of Texas, being a Christian with more or less mainstream views about gender and sexuality is apparently enough to disqualify a person for public service.
Last month, the Austin Fire Department dismissed its volunteer lead chaplain, Dr. Andrew Fox, for his refusal to apologize for a personal blog post in which he expressed the majoritarian and utterly common-sense view that men and women are biologically different and that men should not be allowed to compete against women in sports.
Fox, a protestant minister who founded the fire department’s chaplaincy program eight years ago, sued the department for violating his First Amendment rights, and he will almost certainly prevail. It’s hard to imagine a clearer violation of freedom of speech than firing someone for expressing their religious or philosophical views, whether about transgenderism or anything else.
But the city’s fire department might not even get off as easily as losing a lawsuit. On Thursday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who represents part of the Austin area, sent a letter to Joel Baker, chief of the city’s fire department, saying the complaints in Fox’s lawsuit are “justly concerning” and that, if true, “create a troubling standard for the exercise of free speech and freedom of religion and are likely unconstitutional.”
Roy has some questions for Baker, as do many Austinites (including myself) who support Fox and are disturbed by the idea that holding traditional Christian views is enough to ban someone from public service or employment in the city.
In the letter, Roy asks whether Fox was removed from his position for expressing his religious views (answer: yes, he was), and whether the fire department is “currently reviewing the employment status of any employees for their personal deeply held beliefs including but not limited to boys playing in girls’ sports, traditional marriage, transgenderism, or political affiliation.”
Roy goes on: “Is it the belief of the Austin Fire Department that the removal of Dr. Fox was not a violation of the First Amendment? Does the Austin Fire Department consider religious beliefs or expression when making hiring and firing decisions?”
The congressmen’s point, of course, is that Fox’s firing has implications far beyond this one case. If, as seems likely, the city’s fire department has a habit of discriminating against chaplains or firefighters or anyone else employed by the department based on their religious beliefs, then department officials are in blatant violation of federal civil rights law, and they have a lot more to worry about than a single lawsuit from Fox.
The attention from Roy, who last week called the firing “cowardly” and “likely unconstitutional,” as well as conservative media (Fox and his attorney appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show recently to discuss the lawsuit) is exactly what this situation needs. Ordinary Americans who share Fox’s views about men and women and sports no doubt increasingly feel abandoned and ignored by public institutions, corporate media, and government at all levels.
At a time when public schools are surreptitiously pushing transgender ideology on students, children’s hospitals are marketing wrongly named “gender-affirming care” to minors, and Hollywood and Big Tech are working to normalize the radical view that men can become women (and vice versa), Americans with traditional Christian views are getting the message that their beliefs and way of life aren’t welcome in the public square.
And they’re not mistaken. Officials in places such as Austin absolutely do not want anyone with traditional Christian views to be in public service or the public’s employ. Unfortunately for them, this is still America, where discrimination on the basis of religion is illegal.
That means the hyper-liberal elites in places like Austin are going to have to learn something their liberal forebears knew well, but they seem to have forgotten: toleration. If they can’t, or won’t, learn to tolerate men like Fox, they have no place in public life. But they might soon have a place in a federal courtroom.