Fire Chief Fired for Faith Sues City of Atlanta
Former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran is suing the city and mayor of Atlanta after they terminated him for his Christian religious beliefs.
Chief Cochran was fired January 6 after Atlanta city leaders took issue with a book Cochran wrote for his Bible study. In the book, Cochran references biblical views of proper sexual ethics. He discusses sexual immorality in general and does not single out homosexuality.
A year after the book was published, however, openly gay city Council Member Alex Wan complained about Cochran's views on homosexuality expressed in the book.
"I respect each individual's right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you're a city employee, and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city's, you have to check them at the door," Wan told The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In November, Chief Cochran was suspended without pay for 30 days while an investigation began. After multiple interviews with fellow firefighters determined Cochran did not discriminate against anyone or create a hostile work environment, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fired the chief anyway.
Christian groups and lawmakers have rallied around Cochran following his termination. Georgia's congressional delegation wrote a letter to Mayor Reed expressing their concern over his actions and calling for him to reinstate Cochran.
"Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom," they said. "Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion. Indeed, in terminating him, the City of Atlanta itself engaged in an act of discrimination, and worse, did so on the basis of his religious beliefs."
Chief Cochran became a firefighter in 1981 and was promoted to fire chief in 1999. His distinguised 34-year career includes being appointed by President Barack Obama as U.S. Fire Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, Chief Cochran and attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom announced they filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and Mayor Reed.
"Every American should be concerned about a government that thinks it can fire you because of what you believe," ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said. "If it can happen to Chief Cochran, a distinguished firefighter who attained the highest fire service position in the United States, it can happen to anybody."