FORMER SPOKANE VALLEY FIREFIGHTER WHO USED WORK EMAIL FOR RELIGIOUS GROUP WINS SUPREME COURT CASE

Nov 2008
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Washington state
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Jon Sprague worked as a Spokane Valley firefighter for nearly 18 years. His tenure ended because of emails for a Christian support group with fellow firefighters.

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — A former Spokane Valley firefighter who was fired for using religious language on his government email account took his case to the Washington Supreme Court and won.

John Sprague worked as a Spokane Valley firefighter for nearly 18 years. He started his career later in life and earned several promotions along the way. It all ended because of emails for a Christian support group with fellow firefighters.
Sprague was fired in 2012. He took the case to court and fought for more than six years and says he finally feels vindicated. He said he always knew he had a strong case but after losing in the lower courts several times, he admits he considered giving up.

Sprague was using his work email to contact fellow firefighters about a Christian fellowship group using his work email account.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department management warned Sprague to stop using the email account for the fellowship group or he would lose his job.

“We had a Christian firefighter fellowship even before I had come along. We even had involvement with another chief who had come before this chief. And everything was totally above board, very accepted. But the chief that had come along later on didn't feel that was appropriate,” Sprague explained.
Even after the court's decision, it took another year of final legal hurdles to finally reach a settlement agreement with Spokane Valley Fire. They agreed on nearly $1 million payout and retirement benefits. Sprague admits, his life has never been the same since he was forced out, but much like a fire, he knows the devastation he's endured isn't the end of his journey.
Former Spokane Valley firefighter who used work email for religious group wins Supreme Court case
Here’s another example of the fall out from the idea being a religious person on a government job means give up free exercise or you are fired. This firefighter took it to the state Supreme Court and won. He also got a million dollar settlement. Big win for religious freedoms for government employees