The Case of Former Atlanta Fire Chief Fired Over Marriage Views Goes to Court

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran lived the American dream. That is, until he was fired from his childhood dream job for writing a book during his own private time.

Cochran’s book, published in 2013 and called “Who Told You That You Were Naked?,” expresses a biblical view on marriage and addresses homosexuality from his Christian perspective.

An active member in his church, he led a men’s small group Bible study and, after discussion with his group on Adam’s sin in the Book of Genesis, researched the words “naked” and “clothed” from the perspective of what the Bible says. He decided to write 162 pages about the topic in a men’s devotional book.

Cochran was reported to have asked the city’s ethics officer for permission before publishing the book and gave a copy of the book to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in January of 2014.

Fast-forward a few months, and Cochran received a 30-day suspension without pay, after an LGBT activist group started to protest the book.

“LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation, and deserve to be respected for their positions without hate and discrimination,” Cochran said, according to a January article from The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “But Christians also have the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation and be respected for their position without hate and without discrimination.”

After 34 years as a firefighter, Cochran’s fairy-tale career came to a halt in January due to his personal views on gay marriage.

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“I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community,” Mayor Reed said in a statement. “I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.”

Cochran had worked his way up, and out from the poverty he grew up in, to be named Atlanta fire chief in 2008. In 2009, he was appointed administrator of the United States Fire Administration under President Barack Obama. Less than a year later, he was back to his position as chief in Atlanta.  

Cochran believes he was unjustly terminated by Reed and in February filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta.

Cochran’s case is slated to go to court Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Atlanta. There will be a hearing on Reed’s motion to dismiss the case.

“I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens,” Reed stated after he had given Cochran a suspension.

Investigation into Cochran found that he did not show discrimination against anyone during employment, yet he was terminated anyway.

“In America, a religious or ideological test cannot be used to fire a public servant, but that’s precisely what the city did,” said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and Cochran’s lawyer David Cortman. “That endangers everyone who works for the city who may hold to a belief that the city doesn’t like. Furthermore, the First Amendment fully protects the freedom of any public employee to distribute religious materials at work to those willing to receive them, and no city rule—written or unwritten—can override that freedom.”

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“First off, do we want the government deciding that anyone that holds views that are in conflict with the government’s views can’t work—can’t make a living?” Cortman told The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness in a previous interview.

Cochran gave copies of the book in controversy to colleagues that he had previously established a relationship with as “believers,” he said.

“The part that got me in trouble was the fact that in the book I dealt with sexual challenges that Christian men have and spoke of biblical marriage and biblical sexuality,” Cochran said in August while speaking at a religious liberty rally in Iowa.

“I learned three lessons from going through what I’m going through,” Cochran said at the rally:

  1. “God always prepares his children for suffering.”
  2. “There are worldly consequences for standing for Christ and for standing for biblical truth.”
  3. “There are also Kingdom consequences for standing for Christ and standing for biblical truth. And the Kingdom consequences are always greater than the worldly consequences.”

“Americans should not have to choose between living out their faith and keeping their job,” he said. “But if you’re faced with the choice of living out your faith or keeping your job, living out your faith is always the right choice.”

Wednesday’s hearing will be the first oral arguments of Cochran’s case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Source material can be found at this site.

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