The lead chaplain for the fire department in Austin, Texas spoke out on the “Todd Starnes Show” Tuesday after he was fired for sticking to his Christian beliefs and refusing to apologize to the LGBT community.
Dr. Andrew Fox, who was a volunteer for eight years, told host Todd Starnes he was told to apologize for a private Christian blog he had or he would be fired.
“I was asked to apologize for my widely-held and broadly-believed Christian beliefs that most Americans would hold to, nothing unique about myself, and I refused to, but I offered a letter of explanation instead,” Fox said. “And having submitted that letter of explanation, it was rejected because there was no apology in it to those who were offended, particularly the LGBTQ community.”
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Ryan Bangert, his attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, said the city is violating Fox’s religious freedoms, the reason for their federal lawsuit.
“Fundamentally, the city of Austin is telling a minister, a minister who is volunteering his time to serve those who serve their community selflessly, that he cannot do that job,” Bangert said. “He cannot minister to them and ascribe to his deeply held religious beliefs, and that violates Dr. Fox’s First Amendment rights.”
Fox was contacted by a neighboring fire department after he was fired and offered to respond as a private citizen, but the department said he couldn’t because of legal reasons.
“I was overtly disappointed,” Fox said.
The British-born chaplain told Starnes he moved to the United States to be a Christian chaplain.
Below is a rushed transcript from the Todd Starnes Show:
STARNES: [01:37:52] Now, we told you about a bizarre story. We had this up on our Web site, Todd Starnes.com from Austin, Texas, a longtime lead chaplain for the Austin Fire Department in texas is suing the fire department and the city of Austin right now. And the reason why is he was fired. And when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, he was really fired because he refused to recant his personally held religious beliefs. I want to go to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line right now, and we’re honored to have with us Chaplain Dr. Andrew Fox and his legal counsel from Alliance Defending Freedom, Ryan Bangert. Guys, good to have you with us today. [01:38:39][47.7]
FOX: [01:38:40] Pleasure to be with you. Thank you. [01:38:42][1.7]
BANGERT: [01:38:43] Thank you, Todd. [01:38:43][0.3]
STARNES: [01:38:44] Dr. Fox, I’d like to start with you, and I’d like for you to share with us briefly what happened to you. Why did you get the heave ho after eight years as chaplain? [01:38:52][8.0]
FOX: [01:38:54] Well, I, having faithfully served the department for eight years in a volunteer capacity, out of the blue came an accusation about my blogging that is private and nothing to do with the fire department. And in my blog I intelligently articulate Christian belief and argument and using reason and logic. And ultimately, I was told to apologize for doing that or I would be fired. [01:39:22][27.9]
STARNES: [01:39:24] So and let me back up here for just a second. That does not sound like an Austin accent. Is that what Dallas Fort Worth? Something a little bit north Texas? [01:39:31][6.9]
FOX: [01:39:32] No. I was an immigrant to the United States in 1999 on a religious worker’s visa. And then I became a permanent resident, then a citizen later on. I’m British. [01:39:41][9.0]
STARNES: [01:39:41] Well, we’re glad to have you. We’re glad to have you and count you as one of ours, Dr. Fox. So you wrote this blog. They told you you had to take it down, you had to apologize. Take us through what happened next. [01:39:54][13.5]
FOX: [01:39:56] Well, I was asked to apologize for my widely held and broadly believed Christian beliefs that most Americans would hold to, nothing unique about myself. And I refused to, but I offered a letter of explanation instead. And having submitted that letter of explanation, it was rejected because there was no apology in it to those who were offended, particularly the LGBTQ community. [01:40:21][25.3]
STARNES: [01:40:24] I want to bring in Ryan into this. Ryan Bangert from Alliance Defending Freedom. Ryan, you hear this story and I know you guys are representing him now. You filed a lawsuit. What are you alleging that the City of Austin has done wrong here? [01:40:36][12.7]
BANGERT: [01:40:38] Well, fundamentally, the city of Austin is telling a minister, a minister who is volunteering his time to serve those who serve their community selflessly, that he cannot do that job. He cannot minister to them and ascribe to his deeply held religious beliefs. And that violates Dr. Fox’s First Amendment rights. He has the right to freely speak. He has the right to conduct his ministry. And the government cannot make a condition of his service that he disclaim and recant his religious beliefs. That violates the First Amendment. [01:41:12][34.1]
STARNES: [01:41:13] And right now, it’s important for our listeners to understand here, and I want you to address this and not Dr. Fox, but we’re dealing with a man for eight years. He has been honored. He has been recognized. Not once has he ever been accused of being disrespectful to the LGBT community. Is that accurate? [01:41:30][17.5]
BANGERT: [01:41:32] That’s exactly right. In fact, he has faithfully served every firefighter who has had a need. He has regularly ministered without regard to anyone’s orientation. And he has been a really a model citizen for those who serve. And there has never been an allegation once that Dr. Fox was in any way engaging in discrimination. In fact, it was widely recognized that Dr. Fox went above and beyond, constantly serving in times of crisis, in times of need. And inexplicably, the Austin Fire Department canceled him because he was simply conducting his ministry. [01:42:11][39.0]
STARNES: [01:42:12] Dr. Fox I was reading through the lawsuit, and it’s a pretty lengthy lawsuit and it’s very detailed. And one of the stories that really struck out to me or stuck out to me, rather, involved a telephone call you received just shortly after being fired. After being dismissed. You got a call from a neighboring fire department about a drowning. I want you to tell our listeners what happened and what transpired. [01:42:37][24.9]
FOX: [01:42:39] Yes…a neighboring department gave me a call during this summer. There had been a tragedy. They couldn’t disclose too much on the phone. But they did tell me the death was involved and the chaplaincy was absolutely necessary to accompany other resource that was there. And very sadly, I had to tell that officer that I had been dismissed from the Austin Fire Department, but I would be delighted as a private citizen to respond to his call for help, not only for the immediate family of those that had lost people, but also those that had witnessed it as well. And the kind of grief that they go through, that is precisely what a chaplain would offer pastoral, spiritual counsel. That’s very private and very personal. The officer on the phone was overtly disappointed that he could not invite me as a private citizen because of the tragedy and the legalities involved there. And so when I got off the phone, I, quite frankly, was brokenhearted that because of, you know, being canceled, I couldn’t function in a pastoral capacity to people. I don’t know whether they were Christian. I don’t know if they held any beliefs, but they were certainly facing tragedy. And I couldn’t be there and prevented from being there because I no longer wear the badge. So I was overtly disappointed. You know, that’s the reason I moved to the United States from England. It was in a ministry capacity as a Christian pastor. [01:44:25][105.4]
STARNES: [01:44:26] You know, Ryan, I hear this story and I hear the pastor saying that he was brokenhearted. But I’m angry. Angry that those people, those strangers were denied the compassion of a minister simply because somebody and one of these radical LGBT people may have been offended by it, by something that just angers me. [01:44:47][21.0]
BANGERT: [01:44:50] And that’s why it is so important that the government follow the First Amendment here, because there are people hurting, there are people who have real needs and those needs are going unaddressed. Those hurts are being unmet. Those needs are being unmet because a government entity is demanding allegiance to a radical ideology and demanding that there be no dissent and canceling those who refuse to bend the knee to this ideology. And that’s and that is exactly and precisely why we have the First Amendment, to prevent these kinds of tests, to allow for freedom of speech, to allow for those who are administering the gospel, to freely administer it consistent with their conscience and their beliefs without government retaliation. Which isn’t happening here. [01:45:36][46.0]
STARNES: [01:45:36] One of the things I found interesting, Ryan as I was reading through the lawsuit is that the fire department has been openly supportive of the pride movement of the LGBT community. And that’s all well and good. But clearly they don’t feel that way about people of the Christian faith who may not hold or subscribe to those views. [01:45:55][19.1]
BANGERT: [01:45:58] It really is baffling that they would deny firefighters, those who serve our community selflessly, the services of someone who himself wants to serve those firefighters selflessly free of charge simply because he won’t recant his religious beliefs. That is beyond my understanding. And that’s exactly why we brought this lawsuit. [01:46:19][21.3]
STARNES: [01:46:20] And Ryan, real quick here, I know that you guys are not that’s not your first the first thing that ADF does. I mean, you guys try to work through and try to sort these things out without having to file a lawsuit. Has there been any kind of communication with the fire department or the city of Austin? [01:46:34][13.9]
BANGERT: [01:46:35] Well, and I know Dr. Fox worked he worked consistently, tirelessly trying to resolve this with the fire department and took this all the way through the process. And to no avail. To no avail. So we really had no choice but to bring this lawsuit. [01:46:49][13.2]
STARNES: [01:46:49] All right. Well well, Dr. Fox, we want to stay up to date on how this case proceeds. Well, we wish you the very best. And it’s just appalling what’s happened to you. This is not who we are as Americans. [01:47:01][12.4]
FOX: [01:47:03] Yes. Yes. Thank you for that support. I deeply appreciate that. [01:47:06][3.4]
STARNES: [01:47:07] All right. Dr. Andrew Fox and Ryan Bangert from Alliance Defending Freedom. Gentlemen, thank you. God bless you. [01:47:13][6.5]
FOX: [01:47:14] Thank you. Thank you, Dad. [01:47:16][1.2]
STARNES: [01:47:16] All right. We’ve got the story up on our website and it’s worth a read. But I wanted you to hear from the chaplain and you can hear his heart over this. And it’s just troubling that you have these radical gay activists out there and they are targeting people like this chaplain, Dr. Fox. I mean, can you imagine the scene of that at that lake when they had the drowning? And you have all these devastated people and we don’t know what. We don’t know if it was a family or if it was just friends or kids or whatever hanging out. And the fire department calls for a chaplain and they’re not allowed to bring him onto the scene of the incident because he’s been fired. I mean, this shows you the level of hatred that these radical LGBT activists have to people of the Christian faith is despicable. This kind of stuff is going on and we got to call it out and we will call it out every single time on this radio program. Shameful. [01:48:16][60.3]