City, mayor of Atlanta playing with constitutional fire

ADF attorneys representing terminated fire chief explore legal options
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Kevin Theriot

Supporters of religious freedom and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran rally
at the Georgia State Capitol, Jan. 13, 2015.
ATLANTA – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys representing Atlanta’s former fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, are exploring legal options after the city terminated him from his job because of his Christian beliefs.

“Tolerance is a two-way street,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “That’s what a federal appeals court said not long ago about public officials who claim to love diversity while only tolerating views they themselves favor. Chief Cochran served the city of Atlanta with distinction, both before and after his post with the Obama administration. The city fired him for nothing other than his faith, and that’s not constitutional. We are currently assessing the legal options available to vindicate his rights to free speech and freedom of religion.”

Though the city granted Cochran permission to publish a Christian book, the city nonetheless fired him simply for writing, in one chapter of the book, about the Christian principle that sex is reserved exclusively for marriage, the union of one man and one woman.

Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for 30 days and required him to complete a mandated conformity program after activists who don’t agree with the fire chief’s views complained. After an investigation found Cochran was not guilty of discrimination, the mayor fired him anyway – ironically on the basis of the need to tolerate diverse views.

“I am heartbroken that I will no longer be able to serve the city and the people I love as fire chief for no reason other than my Christian faith,” said Cochran. “It’s ironic that the city points to tolerance and inclusion as part of its reasoning. What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”

“The most baffling thing is that I had permission to write my book and I was exonerated of discriminating against anyone,” Cochran continued. “This happened to me, but it’s really not about me. It’s a warning to every American that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are hanging by a thread, which will snap if we don’t fight to preserve these cherished protections.”

Cochran was named the Atlanta fire chief in 2008. He served in that position until 2009, when he accepted the position of fire administrator in the Obama administration. In 2010, he returned to Atlanta, and the city council unanimously confirmed him to serve once again as the city’s fire chief.

Also representing Cochran are Jonathan Crumly and Garland Hunt, two of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF.
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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