On Tuesday, January 6, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that he was firing the city’s Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran, after gay activists complained about a book that Cochran had published about his Christian beliefs.
In the book, aimed at helping Christian men overcome past sins, Cochran had expressed his belief that sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.
The controversy first erupted in November. At that time Cochran was suspended for a month without pay, and ordered to undergo "sensitivity" training, with Mayor Reed saying he would not tolerate any “discrimination.”
Now, however, Reed has announced that he is making that suspension permanent. While the mayor is claiming that the issue is about “judgment” and not about “freedom of religion” or “freedom of speech,” those clearly are the central issues here.
Cochran, who is a deacon, Sunday School teacher and Bible study leader at Atlanta's Elizabeth Baptist Church, has been fired simply because of his Christian beliefs - plain and simple.
"This happened to me, but it's really not about me," Cochran said this week. "It's a warning to every American that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are hanging by a thread, which will snap if we don't fight to preserve these cherished protections."
If this firing is permitted to stand, it will cast a chill on free speech rights country-wide, sending a message that simply being a believing Christian disqualifies a person from holding public office! It must be opposed.
From Kelvin Cochran's biography from the City of Atlanta website:
Chief Cochran’s began his career in the fire service in 1981 as a firefighter for the Shreveport, La., Fire Department. He was promoted to fire training officer and served in this capacity from 1985 to 1990, when he became assistant chief training officer. He was appointed the Department’s fire chief on August 26, 1999.
On January 2, 2008, Chief Cochran was tapped by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to serve as Fire Chief for the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. He served in that capacity until July 2009, when President Barack Obama appointed him as U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, Chief Cochran was charged with overseeing, coordinating, and directing national efforts to prevent fires and improve fire response. He worked extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
On May 8, 2010, Chief Cochran returned to Atlanta to resume the position of fire chief. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Atlanta City Council on August 16, 2010.
Chief Cochran has more than 28 years of fire service experience with involvement in all phases of the profession ... He authored two chapters — Chapter 1, “Leadership and Management,” and Chapter 25, “The Fire Chief of the Future,” for the Chief Fire Officers Desk Reference, published by Jones and Bartlett Publishers.