Trouble in the Bon Air Fire Company

A Bon Air truck in the 2012 PA Firemen’s Parade – MontCo Planning Commission via Flickr

Haverford Township commissioners shut down one of its fire companies following news of one fireman’s ties to an extremist group. 

     The Bon Air Fire Company was shut down indefinitely on August 22 following a unanimous vote by township commissioners. The fireman, Bruce McClay, Jr., tried to join the Proud Boys organization, which promotes violent and discriminatory actions. 

     The fire company received an anonymous tip in mid-August linking McClay to the Proud Boys. McClay tried to resign amid an investigation, but Bon Air’s board refused to accept his resignation, arguing that he moved away from the organization once learning of its violent intents. However, McClay completed two of the four steps of initiation, with committing an act of violence as the fourth step.

     The township commissioners voted unanimously to temporarily close the fire company until the situation was resolved. Upper school history chair Ms. Hannah Turlish, who is currently running for the Ward 7 Commissioner seat in Haverford Township, said, “I was extremely pleased that it was a 9-0 decision to shut down firehouse.” 

Turlish thinks that the fire company should have accepted McClay’s resignation, which would have caused far less drama.

     Turlish thinks that the fire company should have accepted McClay’s resignation, which would have caused far less drama.

     The central issue in this case involves the First Amendment, which grants freedom of speech and other related rights to all Americans. Under the First Amendment, McClay is allowed to join any organization he desires. However, there are certain circumstances where the First Amendment rights are restricted. One of these restrictions applies to federal employees, including public school teachers, police officers, and firemen.

     These federal employees must serve everyone equally, and cannot express discrimination. By joining a discriminatory group, the Haverford Township commissioners felt McClay could no longer perform his job effectively. 

     Ms. Turlish said, “Firefighters are held to a higher standard. He would have been fine at any other job, but because he is a firefighter, there are consequences.”

     After the company shut down, Bon Air’s board decided to accept McClay’s resignation. Shortly thereafter, the company reopened.