Kelvin Cochran was a Chief of the Atlanta Fire Department who was fired in 2015, a job he would probably still hold today if the city officials had any respect for his rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Cochran troubles begin with the book he wrote on his own time for a small church group. The book entitled “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” The book directed Christian men to fulfill their biblical roles as “husbands, fathers, community and business leaders.”
A small percentage of the book was addressed to 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 despised and defined very differently outside of halls of church. When Cochran’s written beliefs in the book came to the attention of Mayor Kasim Reed, Reed did not hesitate to fire Cochran, 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.”
There is no doubt that Cochran was fired for his beliefs; but the city denied that. Instead it claimed that he was fired because he didn’t obtain permission before publishing the book. As if it is cities job to give permissions what you do on your free time. What’s next, he has to seek permission to go to church?
“It’s a frightening day in the United States when a person cannot express their faith without fears of persecution following,” White told me. “It’s persecution when a godly fire chief loses his job over expressing his Christian faith.”
Kelvin wasn’t going to get bullied by the city of Atlanta so he took his case to federal court. A federal court agreed that the Atlanta pre-clearance policy “does not pass constitutional muster” because it does not “set out objective standards for the supervisor to employ.” However , the court also rejected Cochran’s claim that his rights to free speech and freedom of religion were violated by his firing.
At least the court was brae enough to rule that Cochran’s firing was unconstitutional.
This is a real concern for all Christians because it makes less vocal about their belief in the open in fear that anything they say or do on on their own time could result in their termination.
Where does that leave Cochran himself? Despite media reports to the contrary, he’s in a position to recover his lost wages and benefits and he was paid 1.2 million by the city of Atlanta for violating his First Amendment rights.
In a just and sane world Kelvin Cochran would not have had to endure what he has endured. But I’m grateful for his courage and I pray that he’ll receive some compensation for the wrong done to him.