NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! They morph into Marvel superheroes when the alarm goes off. They are frequently the first to arrive to car accidents, medical situations, and of course, fires. They are out the door in a hurry. They are, nevertheless, men and women who require advice, prayer, and a listening ear as they survive in the high-stress, dangerous profession of firefighting after the adrenaline rush of saving a life wears off. Firefighters are prepared to rescue people and lessen casualties during emergencies. But who answers their calls for assistance? I established the Austin Fire Department’s chaplaincy program so that individuals who deal with crises on a daily basis would have someone to turn to if they experienced problems of their own. After then, it was my turn to take the initiative.
Religious organizations respond to media reports that the Supreme Court wants to advance Christianity.
I’m an ordained priest who volunteered for eight years as the city’s chief chaplain, supporting the 1,400 uniformed and non-uniformed members of Austin’s fire department. My responsibility was to be there for them wherever they were, whenever they needed me. I served as a 24/7 resource for the firefighters.
I was summoned to a tragic scene during Austin’s major ice storm last year where a family unintentionally set their house on fire while attempting to stay warm. I pulled covers over the bodies as the firefighters dragged them from the burning house to hide their faces from inquisitive eyes and cameras. I spent time debriefing with the firefighters after they had cleaned up the situation, praying with some of them, and talking to those who had come up to me since then. I was called to the scene of horrific firefighter deaths, some of which occurred in the line of duty and others which were committed by the firemen themselves. The stress that firefighters encounter can have a negative impact on their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. I was there for the families during these difficult times, guiding them through this unfathomable loss.
Since I am no longer a chaplain for the Austin Fire Department, I must write in the past tense. Because I expressed my religious beliefs on my own blog, which city officials could not tolerate, I was let go from my volunteer position. The divisive position that destroyed my career? Writing about my moral and ethical conviction that since men and women are biologically distinct, they shouldn’t play on women’s sports teams. When city officials insisted that I retract and apologize for the supposed damage my blog post caused, I responded by saying that my goal was to promote conversation, not offend. And if anyone was upset, I apologized. I was unable to change my mind or express regret for my faith, though.
But my little apology wasn’t sufficient. I was terminated by city officials from the volunteer chaplaincy I founded. For eight years, I treated every fireman equally and consistently, with compassion, regardless of who they were, including members of the LGBT community. I freely responded to every request for eight years because I thought it was a great honor to help folks who gave so much of themselves to their community. All of that, however, was meaningless when I stated a religious viewpoint that the city sought to ban. The government should never ban speech on the basis of someone’s religious beliefs. But that’s exactly what the authorities in Austin did. I was forced to turn in my uniform when they insisted that I adhere to their political ideology and recanted my fervent religious beliefs.