Faith Under Fire


Fire Chief Ron Hittle was fired because he went to a leadership conference that was held at a church. After 24 years of service, the city of Stockton, California terminated him for attending this world-class leadership conference even though it encouraged him to attend leadership training. Discriminating against and firing employees because of their religion is illegal in America. That’s why we’re fighting for Chief Hittle.

Ron Hittle Fire Chief | First Liberty

Ron Hittle Fire Chief | Faith Under Fire

20 Year Career Goes Up in Flames

Ron Hittle served as a firefighter for 20+ years. When he became Fire Chief in 2006, he worked diligently to improve the department and lead his staff effectively.

When the Deputy City Manager asked him to hone his leadership skills, Ron chose the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, a stellar leadership seminar featuring a diverse line up of speakers, business leaders, coaches, authors and successful entrepreneurs. Three of his staff members joined him, and he put his attendance on the public city calendar so his supervisors would be aware. The firefighters’ tickets were privately paid for, saving the city money.

But he was told attending a Christian seminar was unacceptable. His superiors opened a months-long investigation, belittled his beliefs, treated him like a criminal and eventually fired him.

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Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination
and harassment on the basis of religion.
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“Religious employees shouldn’t have to hide their faith in order to serve their communities in the workplace.”

– First Liberty Senior Counsel, Stephanie Taub

Stephanie Taub | Hittle Fire Chief - Faith Under Fire

Burned for His Beliefs

It’s not every day that an employer makes clear it fired an employee because of his religious faith and activities. But that’s exactly what happened with Ron.

After the seminar, Ron told his boss it was the best leadership training he had ever attended and that it was highly beneficial for his career. How did his boss respond? By confronting Ron with a list of 10 “charges,” the first five which were all related to his religion. The city even admitted his attendance at the “religious event” and allowing others to attend were the primary reasons for his termination, listing them first.

That’s outrageous and wrong. And it’s illegal under federal law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This law makes clear that employers cannot discharge or take adverse action against employees on the basis of their religion.

Americans should not have to choose between their faith and their livelihood. Your support is essential in delivering a legal victory for Ron—and for many Americans who are singled out for their faith in the workplace.

Hittle Ron Hittle Fire Chief | Faith Under Fire

Our First Responders Deserve Better

The Stockton Fire Department lists “compassion” and “importance of our members” as some of its core values. It even says it will “respect and honor the traditions of our organization, community, and profession.” But these apparently did not apply to Ron and his religious beliefs.

Instead of being treated fairly and respectfully, Ron was discriminated against and mistreated on the basis of his religion. One of his superiors pressured him to accept a demotion. He also threatened Ron, saying, “I’ll drag your name through the mud” and conduct an investigation that “will be embarrassing for you and your family.” Another supervisor disparagingly referred to Ron and other Christians in the office as a “Christian Coalition” and “church clique.”

Sign the Letter of Support

Firefighting is a demanding profession. These courageous public servants work around the clock, often putting their health and lives on the line to keep us safe. It’s difficult enough to find people willing to make that sacrifice. We should be encouraging qualified and experienced people like Ron to remain a part of the firefighter force, not purging them just because of their faith.

In early 2023, we presented Ron’s case at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing there is ample evidence of religious discrimination and the case should go to trial before a jury. Winning this case could affect you and every person of faith and their employment protections under the law.

Americans should not have to choose between their faith and their livelihood. Our first responders deserve better than what Ron has received. Will you take a stand and help protect our first responders?

Sign this letter of support to tell Chief Hittle that: “I stand with you! I fully support your decision to live out your faith while serving as a first responder.”
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