Judge Rules for Kelvin Cochran

The court ruled that Cochran’s firing was unconstitutional

When the contents of Cochran’s book came to the attention of Mayor Kasim Reed, Reed ultimately fired Cochran, but not before saying “when you’re a city employee, and [your] thoughts, beliefs, and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”

 

Another big religious freedom case in federal court. And in this case, there’s a ray of hope.

For more than three decades, Kelvin Cochran built a record of service and expertise that made him one of the most respected fire chiefs in the country. He was the first African-American fire chief in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was among the responders to Hurricane Katrina. President Obama appointed him as the U.S. Fire Administrator, whose job is to improve both fire prevention and response across the country.

And until a few years ago, he was the chief of the Atlanta Fire Department, a job he would probably still hold if city officials had any respect for Cochran’s rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Cochran got into trouble over a book he wrote on his own time for a small group that he led in his church. The book, entitled Who Told You That You Were Naked?, was directed at Christian men seeking to fulfill their biblical roles as “husbands, fathers, community and business leaders.”

Six of the book’s 162 pages — yes, that’s 3.7 percent — addressed a biblical perspective on sexuality. As David French summed up, Cochran took “the completely conventional, orthodox Christian position that sex outside of male-female marriage is contrary to God’s will,” which “is the position of the Catholic Church and every orthodox Protestant denomination in the United States.”

Unfortunately, “orthodoxy” is defined very differently at Atlanta’s City Hall. When the contents of Cochran’s book came to the attention of Mayor Kasim Reed, Reed ultimately fired Cochran, but not before saying “when you’re a city employee, and [your] thoughts, beliefs, and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”

That makes it sound like Cochran was fired for his beliefs; but the city denied that. Instead it claimed that he was let go because he didn’t obtain permission before publishing the book.

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Listen to a video where speaks of his experience as a Christian and a firefighter.