Thirty-five thousand petitions were delivered this week to Atlanta City Hall over the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran over his expressed belief about the morality of homosexuality.
When his thoughts first came to light in a book he privately published, the Mayor of Atlanta suspended him without pay for a month and initiated an investigation to determine if Cochran’s thoughts violated city policies or discriminated against city employees.
Two passages in the book angered some employees who turned him in. Cochran wrote, “Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.”
The book also says: “Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”
In publishing the book, Cochran had entered into a private enterprise without permission. The mayor’s office was also upset that Cochran gave the book to three people without them first asking for it.
All along, the Mayor insisted that Cochran’s trouble had nothing to do with his beliefs about homosexuality. But upon his firing, Reed said, “[The Chief’s] actions made it a difficult work environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees within the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. This sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment.” He also said, “Let’s stop trying to make this about religious freedom when it’s about making sure that we have an environment in government where everyone, no matter who they love, can do their job without fear of being discriminated against.”
At a rally in his support this week, former Chief Cochran said, “I was fired for having the audacity to believe that sex was created for procreation and should be in the bonds of holy matrimony between and a man and woman.”
Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing Cochran, said:
Tolerance is a two-way street. That’s what a federal appeals court said not long ago about public officials who claim to love diversity while only tolerating views they themselves favor. Chief Cochran served the city of Atlanta with distinction, both before and after his post with the Obama administration. The city fired him for nothing other than his faith, and that’s not constitutional. We are currently assessing the legal options available to vindicate his rights to free speech and freedom of religion.
A subsequently issued report shows that there was no evidence that Cochran’s views had any impact on the way he ran the department or handled disciplinary actions.