Atlanta Fire Department Chief Kelvin Cochran has been dismissed over a dispute about a self-published, religious-oriented book that was perceived as anti gay.
On Tuesday, city officials gave Cochran the opportunity to step down voluntarily, which he declined.
Cochran was let go on the day he returned for a 30-day suspension prompted by the controversy. Previously, at least one LGBT group that demanded he be terminated.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed insisted that the termination (see footage of the mayor's press conference below) has nothing to do with Cochran's religious beliefs.
Former Chief Cochran's book reportedly denounces promiscuous sex by males outside of marriage (whether with the opposite sex or same sex) and also refers to same-sex relationships as a form of sexual perversion.
The chief is a deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta. The 162-page book, called Who Told You That You Were Naked? alludes to being naked in the biblical or spiritual sense. The title language is found in Genesis 3:11, and the content of the book is said to be based on lesson plans originally prepared for men's bible study groups.
Mayor Reed denounced the book in a Facebook message posted in late November, adding that the had just found out about it. On Facebook at the time, Reed declared that he profoundly disagreed and was deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in Cochran's book about the LGBT community.
As far as the post-suspension termination is concerned, the mayor's stated issue with Cochran centers in part on a failure to give the city a heads-up on the book as required by ethics rules, something that the chief fundamentally disputes.
Reed said he was also concerned about possible employment discrimination lawsuits from other municipal workers who perhaps might be homosexual or members of other legally protected classes. "The mayor said he decided to terminate Cochran not just because the fire chief didn't consult him before publishing the book, but also spoke out about his suspension despite being told to remain quiet during the investigation into his leadership. What's more, Reed said he believes Cochran opened up the city to the potential for litigation over future discrimination claims," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The city might wind up in court anyway if, for example, Cochran pursues a wrongful discharge claim.
Cochran told Fox News and other media outlets that both the LGBT community and Christians alike should be able to engage in free speech.
"The LGBT members of our community have a right to be able to express their views and convictions about sexuality and deserve to be respected for their position without hate or discrimination. But Christians also have a right to express our belief regarding our faith and be respected for our position without hate and without discrimination. In the United States, no one should be vilified, hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs."He also claimed that his book "did not single out homosexuality. I simply spoke to sex being created by God for pro-creation and He intended it to be between a man and a woman in holy matrimony -- and that any other sex outside of that is sin."
"Everything I wrote in the book is based on scriptures, not my opinions," added Cochran, according to local Atlanta television station 11 Alive.Several religious organizations have expressed strong support for the ex-chief, who has been a firefighter for 34 years, and who was serving his second stint as fire rescue department boss in Atlanta. In between, he served as U.S. Fire Administrator in the Obama administration. The president of the Georgia Baptist Convention has maintained, "It's persecution when a godly fire chief loses his job over expressing his Christian faith."
Given the controversy over the fired fire chief and assuming that religious liberty rather than a work rule violation is in play, do you think that religious freedom and civil rights are compatible?
[image via YouTube]