Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is responding to two lawsuits filed against him for firing former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, and he wrote a sharp retort to U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s defense of Cochran’s expression of his religious beliefs.
Multiple Republican members of Georgia’s delegation wrote to Reed with concerns that Cochran’s firing resulted from his religious beliefs, saying that “appears” the mayor violated “fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom.”
On Wednesday, Reed said Cochran’s termination was not related in any way to his religious beliefs.
“I appreciate your concerns, and would share them if the decision to terminate Kelvin Cochran from his former position as the Chief of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department had been on his religious views or the expression of those views in his capacity as a private citizen,” Reed wrote, according to the AJC, on the same that Cochran filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the mayor and the city.
Cochran had an impeccable record within the department prior to Reed’s administration last month for what the mayor said was a breach in protocol in Cochran’s decision to publish “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” At issue are passages within the 162-page book that describe homosexuality as a “sexual perversion” akin to bestiality.
Supporters of Reed’s decision to oust Cochran say it was because his inflammatory rhetoric was offensive to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Others back Cochran’s viewpoint on homosexuality.
Reed told Loudermilk that Cochran was dismissed because:
- he identified himself in the book as Atlanta’s fire chief;
- that he was using his position of authority to “cultivate the culture (inside the department) for the glory of God.”
- Cochran failed to receive clearance from the city’s ethics office prior to publishing his book;
- Cochran then defied Reed’s request to “refrain from public comment” during the city’s investigation into his leadership.
Despite these complaints, an investigation found no evidence that Cochran’s beliefs played a role in his leadership.
Reed remains defiant and resolute in the face of this lawsuit.
“Please rest assured that the city of Atlanta remains a place where all people — including those who share Mr. Cochran’s beliefs — are equally valued and respected,” Reed wrote. “Religious beliefs, however, cannot shield any employee from the consequences of poor judgment and insubordination.”
On Wednesday, attorneys with faith-based nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom filed the federal civil rights lawsuit on Cochran’s behalf.
The lawsuit is a separate legal proceeding from a federal discrimination complaint Cochran filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January.