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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley ex-firefighter sues over firing for religious emails


A former Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter fired for sending religious emails on the department’s email system has filed a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court in an attempt to get his job back.

Jon Sprague created the Spokane County Christian Firefighter Fellowship in 2010 and used the department’s email system to send information about fellowship events as well as links to a monthly newsletter to fellow firefighters. Sprague was ordered repeatedly to stop sending the nonwork-related emails and was disciplined several times before being fired in 2012.

He appealed his dismissal before the department’s Civil Service Commission, which unanimously upheld his termination in 2013.

The lawsuit argues that other employees were allowed to use the department’s email system for nonwork purposes without any disciplinary action being taken.

Sprague has sued the department and its former fire chief, Mike Thompson, claiming they violated his First Amendment rights and his civil rights. He’s asking for reinstatement, lost wages, punitive damages and a declaration that the department’s policies violate the civil rights of its employees.

Spokane Valley Fire Chief Bryan Collins said it is against department policy to comment on pending lawsuits. Thompson, who along with his wife is named personally in the lawsuit rather than in his role as the chief, also declined to comment.

“I’ve read through it, but it doesn’t surprise me that I was personally named,” Thompson said.

Attempts to reach Sprague on Friday evening were not successful.