Atlanta fire chief fired for faith: 'It was an honor'

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(Alliance Defending Freedom)Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran

ATLANTA (Christian Examiner) – Court proceedings have begun in the case of Cochran v. City of Atlanta, in which former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was unjustly terminated from his position—for being a Christian.

Just a few weeks after the high-ranking civil servant was promoted, Cochran was suspended, then fired by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for expressing his views on biblical sexuality in his book, Who Told You You Were Naked?

The mayor suspended the fire chief for 30 days, requiring him to complete sensitivity training, then fired him anyway even though a city investigation failed to prove that Cochran discriminated against anyone, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, Cochran's legal representation.

Cochran filed his case with U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, in February. Though it is far from trial, a hearing before a district judge on Oct. 14 will be held to determine whether the case will be dismissed.

In an interview with the Daily Signal, Cochran spoke about the reason for the lawsuit he has filed against the city. Americans should be "guaranteed the freedom to live without fear of being terminated...for the free expression of our beliefs and thoughts."

Cochran, who has been in the profession for 34 years, said he was willing to die for anyone as part of his job and as a matter of faith. "Love is the foundation of the Christian faith," he declared, saying he loved everyone no matter who they were.

In a statement after the hearing of the city's motion to dismiss, Cochran said, "Our nation was founded on the principle that everyone should be free to not just believe what they want, but to live their lives according to those beliefs. The city's actions are a threat to that freedom."

A LANDMARK CASE

Cochran sees his case as representative of religious Americans who are being challenged for allegedly discriminatory, intolerant, or exclusionary religious views.

"All across our country, people of faith are finding themselves increasingly at risk of losing their jobs, their businesses, and more because certain segments of society find them and their beliefs intolerable," he said.

"I'm here today not just for myself, but for every religious person in America who does not want to live in fear of facing termination for expressing their faith. I'm here today to vindicate the God-given freedoms every American is guaranteed under the United States Constitution and federal law."

When asked what he would like to say to the nation, Cochran said he was blessed by his appointment. "It was an honor. ... I was blessed to be able to do some incredible things even though I was only here for a short period of time." He would willingly accept his job back.

The former fire chief maintains the government "doesn't have the right to impose government-endorsed belief systems on their employees." Having to choose between your faith and your job, he said, "should not be even a dilemma for any American today."

After Cochran's termination, the mayor was inundated with pleas from Members of Congress and many private organizations including the American Family Association to reinstate Cochran.

"As fellow Georgians," wrote the six Members of Congress in February, "we are extremely troubled that a capable and longstanding public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissal solely because of his religious views."

Mayor Reed said last year about his reasons for terminating Cochran's employment, "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is ... inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens."

About the views of human sexuality and marriage in his book, Cochran points out that they are the same as those expressed in the Bible.