Fact Check

Fireman Suspended and Jailed by Atheist Mayor for Praying at Scene of Fire

There is not a grain of truth to a report about an atheist mayor in Louisiana's firing a praying firefighter.

Published Sep 6, 2016

The atheist mayor of DeQuincy, Louisiana, fired a firefighter for praying at the scene of a fire.

In September 2016, social media users spread a story holding that DeQuincy, Louisiana's atheist mayor had fired a firefighter for praying at the scene of a call:

A small town in Louisiana suspended one of its firefighters, 39-year-old Ronnie Edwards, without pay for praying while on duty at the scene of a fire. Edwards, who has been with the DeQuincy Fire Department since he was 21, was also arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

“I just do what our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, would do,” Edwards told local DeQuincy news station DQLA6. “It’s not about me, it’s about spreading his message, you know? He works through me, I’m just fortunate enough to be part of that.”

According to sources within the DeQuincy Fire Department, Edwards, known to locals as “The Praying Fireman”, has been praying at the scene of fires since he joined the department in 1998, and it is only recently that the ritual has become an issue.

Ketchum said that things changed in 2014 when DeQuincy elected the first democratic mayor in its history, an African American atheist named Lawana Jones. He said that when Jones heard that Edwards made a habit of praying at fires she sent a memo to all city employees advising them that any expression of personal religious belief while on duty was a violation of their contract with the city.

There was no truth to this report, which was simply another falsehood promulgated malware-spreading fake news sites that illegally appropriate the trademarks of legitimate news organizations with fabricated clickbait stories in order to lure in readers and generate advertising revenue.

The mayor of DeQuincy is actually Lawrence Henagan (not Lawana Jones), and the pictured firefighters hail from Johnston, Iowa (not DeQuincy, Louisiana).

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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