For Fire Captain Jon Sprague, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Courage

Image: Capt. Jon Sprague by Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review

According to the Barna group, 88 percent of Americans own a Bible and 75 percent believe “the Bible teaches moral principles that are badly needed in society.” The vast majority of Americans recognize that the Bible offers wisdom and comfort for those shouldering life’s trials. You only need to take a trip to D.C.’s newest museum — the Museum of the Bible — to learn about how the good book has been a source of wisdom throughout our nation’s history.

But in Spokane Valley, Washington, the Bible is viewed as a fire to be put out — and faith, seen as something to be hidden rather than a light to be shined. Yet for Fire Captain Jon Sprague, a Bible-believing Christian, his faith can’t be turned on-and-off like a light switch, especially in places like his department’s online bulletin board which was created as a forum to dispense advice on life struggles such as “family conflict, suicide, compulsive gambling, and eating disorders.” What better source to turn to for wisdom, hope and comfort than the best-selling book of all time?

Captain Sprague used the forum to share his faith which the department insisted on censoring. When Sprague declined to submit to viewpoint discrimination — he was fired. The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) came to his legal aid – taking his case all the way to the Washington state Supreme Court which last week ruled that he is entitled to a court trial. “Sprague has met his initial burden to show that the restrictions on his speech violated the First Amendment.”

PJI President Brad Dacus responded, “This is a terrific victory for Capt. Sprague, and an important reminder of First Amendment principle. No employee should be terminated for speaking on otherwise-permissible topics at work, just because he has a religious perspective.”

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Amen! Captain Sprague’s boldness to stand up both for his faith and constitutional rights is an example for us all. He knew of the possible consequences, but I have no doubt he joined the department to help people, not stand idly by as his fellow firefighters struggle with life and death decisions. He could have submitted to the censorship and seen the online forum turn into a faith-free zone but his love for God and people were greater than the fear of what the department might do to him.

If the Spokane Valley Fire Department once again becomes a place where religious expression is protected not banned, it will be because Captain Sprague had the courage to stand. Please join me in praying for and standing with Captain Sprague.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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