Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fired highly-decorated and respected Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran for writing, publishing and distributing a book condemning homosexuality.
Cochran had published the book, Who Told You That You Were Naked, and spoke about in church, where he serves as the deacon and Sunday School teacher.
“I want to make my position and the city of Atlanta’s position crystal clear,” Reed said strongly and resolutely in a press conference at Atlanta City Hall. “The city’s nondiscrimination policy … really unequivocally states that we will not discriminate.” Any individual who violates that policy or “creates an environment where that is a concern” will not continue his or her employment with the city government.
Conservatives have flocked to his defense, saying Cochran has been subjected to unjust ridicule and persecution for espousing his religious beliefs. J. Edgar White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, accused the mayor of subjecting Cochran as part of those “who are punished or marginalized for their faith.”
White is imploring Christians to purchase Cochran’s book and support him.
Reed vehemently and repeatedly denied Cochran was terminated for his religious beliefs, instead saying the book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, was published in violation of Atlanta’s Standards of Conduct, which requires approval from the Ethics Officer and the Board of Ethics.
According to Reed, Cochran’s “actions and decision-making undermine his ability to manage our fire department” because people under Cochran’s charge need to feel that they are “a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions.”
“Let’s stop trying to make this about ‘religious freedom,” Reed said with a trace of anger and defiance in his voice toward his critics, “when it’s about making sure we have an environment in government where everyone, no matter who they love … can do their job and go home without fear of being discriminated against. That’s what this is about.”
The mayor was referring to the inflammatory and defamatory emails he received over the holidays calling him the “anti-Christ,” insisting that Cochran’s book is “clearly inflammatory.”
“To those folks who were calling me and telling me that I should retain him, I just want you to know one thing … his religious decisions are not the basis of the problem; his judgment is the basis of the problem,” Reed concluded.
The mayor also has his supporters in firing Cochran. An Atlanta columnist, Jay Bookman, blasted the ex-fire chief for his judgment. “When you have been suspended without pay from your job, as Cochran was,” Bookman penned, “you can’t make it clear during the suspension that you intend to continue such statements, and then expect that you’ll be reinstated.”
Cochran’s book included very strong language about multiple acts of sexual impropriety and iniquity: “uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.” Cochran included homosexuality among behaviors that are “vile, vulgar, and inappropriate” and “defile [the] body-temple and dishonor God.”