Faith Groups Hold Rally Supporting Kelvin Cochran, while Competitive Georgia Emails Legislators

Several hundred people attended a rally this afternoon in support of former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. The rally was organized by pastors Garland Hunt and Mike Griffin, and was promoted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and other faith based organizations. The announcement promoting the event said,

The unjust firing of Chief Kelvin Cochran by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has awakened believers from around our state and nation to the reality of Christian discrimination in the workplace. Now is the time for all Bible-believing Christians to show their support for Chief Cochran’s courage and for our First Amendment rights as American citizens!

Come stand for your faith and against anti-Christian bigotry with Chief Kelvin Cochran, pastors, church leaders and Christians. We will conclude our time together by walking to City Hall for a time of prayer.

Speakers included former Chief Cochran, along with Dr. Richard Lee, Bishop Wellington Boone, Dr. Craig Oliver, Dr. J. Robert White, and other leaders.

For his part, Mayor Reed, asserted earlier today that his actions had nothing to do with religion, but instead were because Cochran violated city policy.

Earlier in the day, Senator Nan Orrock hosted a multi-faith group of clergy in a press conference. The group produced a letter opposing the religious freedom bills.

The dispute between Reed and Cochran can be seen by some as a proxy war between those in favor of a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, such as Rep. Sam Teasley’s House Bill 29, and those who oppose it, fearing the possibility of religious discrimination.

One organization in the second group is Competitive Georgia. Its Executive Director, Allen Fox, sent an email to Georgia House members on Monday with the subject line, “Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Ralston raises valid concerns about religion bill.”

The email reads,

Dear Representative:

Below is an editorial from the Columbus Ledger Enquirer regarding the so-called “religious freedom” bill sponsored by State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).

The Leger [sic] Enquirer raises the same concerns that Competitive Georgia, businesses and other citizens from all over Georgia have raised. Namely, that this legislation will open the door to discriminatory practices. This type of law policy will jeopardize the state’s ability to grow its economy and negatively impact Georgia’s reputation as a leader for national and global commerce.

Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. It is guaranteed and enshrined in our constitution. We value our religious beliefs. But those beliefs don’t allow us to discriminate or treat others unfairly.

Join Competitive Georgia and defeat this unnecessary and dangerous legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

You can read the editorial Fox refers to here.

Note: This post has been updated to clarify the roles of those organizing and promoting the rally.

Below the fold, some pictures from this afternoon’s rally at the Capitol.

Several hundred people gathered on the second floor of the State Capitol to protest the firing of Kelvin Cochran.
Several hundred people gathered on the second floor of the State Capitol to protest the firing of Kelvin Cochran.
Several speakers addressed the crowd at the rally.
Several speakers addressed the crowd at the rally.
Attendees carried signs at the rally.  in addition to these preprinted ones, there were handmade signs, including one that said, "Kasim Kills."
Attendees carried signs at the rally.
in addition to these preprinted ones, there were handmade signs, including one that said, “Kasim Kills.”

53 comments

  1. John Konop says:

    I am confused by Senator McKoon who claims to be a lawyer. A first year law school student could figure out what happen here. Under the new law by Senator McKoon it seems he would support a radical Muslim fire chief ( public employee) writing a book claiming all infidels have broken mortal sins, and should never be forgiven for not converting to be a Muslim. And the Muslim boss could pass this book out to public employees unsolicited, and during employee evaluations under the “Freedom of Religion” act he is promoting. I would love to hear from Senator McKoon on his logic….or lack of it….Senator McKoon was clear he wanted all the rights given to anyone regardless to which faith. In fact he seemed to imply, I was racist for even questioning his logic with the latest Muslim crisis….which after France blows my mind….

    …….City of Atlanta Releases the Law Department’s Investigative Report of Kelvin Cochran

    ATLANTA – The City of Atlanta Law Department performed a thirty-day investigation into the publication of the book Who Told You That You Were Naked by former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. The Law Department issued its findings in an Investigative Report released on January 9, 2015.

    The Investigative Report shows that Mr. Cochran did not have authority to publish the book as required by the Atlanta Code of Ordinances and that he distributed the book to at least nine subordinates at work. It also describes a general consensus among the interviewed Atlanta Fire Rescue Department employees that Mr. Cochran’s book publication, in his capacity of Fire Chief, undermined his ability to provide leadership to the Department in the future…….

    ……..Authority

    Atlanta’s Ethics Code establishes the required approval process for Department heads who wish to engage in outside activities “for remuneration”.

    Commissioners . . . may engage in private employment or render services for private interest only upon obtaining prior written approval from the board of ethics in accordance with this paragraph. The board of ethics shall review each request individually and provide written approval or disapproval of the notification within thirty days. (Atlanta Code of Ordinances, Section 2-820 (d)).

    The independent report found that “no such approval was sought or rendered in the publication of the book that is available on Amazon.com for purchase”. (Investigative Report, p. 1).

    Distribution of Book in Workplace

    The Investigative Report determined that Mr. Cochran distributed his book in the workplace to at least nine individuals. Three of them stated that the book was given to them without a request on their part. (Investigative Report, p. 2)

    Most notably, Mr. Cochran provided the book to a Battalion Chief during a professional counseling one-one-one session. The Battalion Chief did not request a copy of the book. The purpose of the session was to discuss what the Battalion Chief needed to do to prepare himself for appointment to the position of Assistant Chief. The Assistant Chief position is the only sworn position that a Fire Chief may appoint using his sole discretion; all other sworn positions are filled through a pre-determined selection process. (Investigative Report, p. 2)

    Disciplinary Decisions

    The Investigative Report found no indication that Mr. Cochran allowed his religious beliefs to compromise his disciplinary decisions. (Investigative Report, p. 3)

    None of the witnesses interviewed for the Investigative Report were able to identify a specific instance of unfair treatment by Mr. Cochran based on his religious beliefs. One of the witnesses, a lesbian who is a retired Battalion Chief, stated that during her employment, she suspected Mr. Cochran’s religious beliefs and consequently took a voluntary demotion. (Investigative Report, p. 4)

    Judgment as Department Head

    The Investigative Report evinces that Mr. Cochran’s actions undermined his ability to lead the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. “There was a consistent sentiment among the witnesses that firefighters throughout the organization are appalled by the sentiments expressed in the book. There is also a general agreement the contents of the book have eroded trust and have compromised the ability of the chief to provide leadership in the future. . . . [Union president Borders] echoed the sentiment of distrust and disgust created by the contents of the book with the representation in the book that Chief Cochran is speaking in his capacity as AFRD Chief.” (Investigative Report, pp. 3-4)

    Law Department Investigation Re Chief Cochran Book, 1-9-15.pdf…………

    http://www.atlantaga.gov//index.aspx?recordid=3233&page=672

    • John Konop says:

      This was the exchange between Senator McKoon and I debating the rights of radical Muslims via his new bill. Senator McKoon is very clear on his blind support no matter the religion.

      FROM SENATOR MCKOON:

      “the RFRA bill is about protecting the religious freedom of Georgians of all faiths. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, your fixation to the contrary notwithstanding. Does your other comment mean you are opposed to Muslims having the same protection of their religious freedom as Georgians of other faiths?”

      . ………..John Konop January 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      ………….How about lowering the requirements to gain ballot access for everybody, that would be news….

      I agree, that would be meaningful reform….this is more pandering by Josh McKoon….First he wants legislation to go after gays…..yet backfires by giving Muslims more rights…..now this….who voted for this guy?

      Reply
      . Josh McKoon January 12, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      I will say again — the RFRA bill is about protecting the religious freedom of Georgians of all faiths. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, your fixation to the contrary notwithstanding. Does your other comment mean you are opposed to Muslims having the same protection of their religious freedom as Georgians of other faiths?

      Reply
      . John Konop January 12, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Very interesting question….it all depends. zealots of any religion are very dangerous….in the name of religious freedom people have blown up abortion clinics, genocide 6 million Jews, thrown people into lions dens, you did see the news in France…….I am all for people having the freedom to believe what they want….the moments it takes away the rights of other people I am against it no matter the religion….If a black Jewish guy married to white wasp girl is denied water for their baby at a gas station based on religious reasons I would say no.

      Reply…………

      • MattMD says:

        I agree with your sentiment but the WW II Holocaust was more political/ than religious, IMO. The Germans murdered a lot of people, I think they killed even 4M+ non-Jews.

      • Josh McKoon says:

        Yes John, the right to free exercise extends to people of every faith. Perhaps you are not familiar with this language:

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        I think anyone could read that and see it says religion — it does not discriminate — so yes Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. all enjoy the rights bestowed by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. So my “blind support” of the right of free exercise for all mirrors the “blind support” of the U.S. Constitution. You got me there John, congratulations.

        • Boredatwork says:

          Then why is your bill necessary? What does it add to the First Amendment? I’ve yet to hear a compelling explanation on this. If Cochran does not have a First Amendment claim, that is likely because he was not fired because of his religion. In which case your bill would change nothing.

    • Josh McKoon says:

      Obviously there remains a dispute over the facts involving Chief Cochran’s case. He claims he asked for and received permission to publish the book. He claims he did not provide the book to other members of the department on the job but rather to individuals with whom he had a previous relationship with through a bible study. Pardon me if I find the “independence” of a review conducted by lawyers who work at the pleasure of Mayor Reed a bit silly. It is interesting the report confirmed the Chief did not allow his religious beliefs to compromise his disciplinary decisions.

      But I never stated that RFRA would allow someone to distribute religious literature on the job to employees for whom the Chief had managerial responsibility. Mere publication of one’s religious beliefs should not be grounds for termination of employment.

      As to your statement that, “Senator McKoon was clear he wanted all the rights given to anyone regardless to which faith” — yes I was. This is America — why on earth would anyone seriously argue that some faiths should have protections while others would be left unprotected. That is just bizarre.

      • Posner says:

        How exactly is a RFRA relevant to Chief Cochran’s situation? Unless I’m missing something, I don’t know what neutral, generally applicable law is being applied here.

        Instead, it looks like an exercise of discretion by government (Reed) in hiring/firing. This would already be subject to strict scrutiny–and will be if/when this matter goes to Court. A RFRA would literally change nothing about this case.

      • John Konop says:

        Josh,

        The French thought just like you……did you read the papers last week…..rights are not absolute….the moment you infringe on others….you have crossed the line…..I will pray for you….

      • Will Durant says:

        “Pardon me if I find the “independence” of a review conducted by lawyers who work at the pleasure of Mayor Reed a bit silly.”

        How can they produce a non-existent approval? It’s real simple, if he received approval it should be in writing and it should be simple for him to produce the document. Failing that it is obvious whose claim is a “bit silly” here.

      • Andrew C. Pope says:

        To be fair Senator, we do have someone representing part of this fair state in Congress that seriously believes in denying certain faiths protection from discrimination and infringement of religious expression.

  2. View from Brookhaven says:

    Cochran should consider himself lucky. He may be out of a job, but Reed will certainly be purchasing thousands of copies of his book to distribute as “gifts” to those who financially support his organization. And the vast Right Wing Money Machine marches on…

  3. gcp says:

    Curious why we hear nothing from the usual local “reverends” that comment on other issues; Raffy Warnock, Markel Hutchins, Bernice King, Joe Lowery and others.

        • Will Durant says:

          There is no shortage of self-proclaimed religious leaders of any race, creed, color, or religion that tell you to send your money to the Lord, but give you their address. In 2012, the most current year I can find, Ralph Reed pulled in $11 million and the donations aren’t even deductible. What I want to know is how it is this one group is allowed to clog up the building without being arrested when other groups are. I thought this type of protest was why they created Liberty Plaza. Is it only for your designation of “reverends”?

          • Harry says:

            Reed has steered clear of 501(c)(3) taint? Wow, now I’m motivated to give him money – warts and all.

          • gcp says:

            Will Durant

            My reference to Bishop Long of New Birth Missionary was in jest. In 2004 he and Bernice King led a march near the capital against gay marriage. Several years later Long was involved in a scandal that was not very “Christian.” I won’t go into the details but it’s readily available on-line.

            My point is that yes sometimes those that profess Christian values don’t practice those values.

            • Will Durant says:

              I’m certainly no judge of righteousness and certainly have my own human frailties, but it doesn’t take anything more than common sense to figure out there are more than a few charlatans in the biz. The Bible teaches forgiveness, not forgetfulness. I’m confused how prominent church leaders would want to be associated with an organization led by a guy who has orchestrated more than one of these forays with questionable motives. The only reason he wasn’t indicted for extortion in the Abramoff deal was that he has been at the game long enough to use cut outs like any good racketeer.

              I’m a firm believer in separation of church and state. If anything, the wall needs to be higher. To believe that yesterday wasn’t orchestrated along with the “self-publication” of the book by the fire chief to exploit political and profitable agendas requires the naiveté of a child. And yes, there are too many other issues that need to be addressed in this session. I submit that ethics aren’t as high on Ralph Reed’s list as they are on mine.

  4. Three Jack says:

    It would be awesome if Georgia could have one legislative session that focused on the real issues facing us instead of the annual religious diversionary tactics put forth by GOPers.

    It would be even more awesome to see taxpayers gathering to demand action on tax and budget reform instead of wasting time (and money) supporting another Ralph Reed money making scheme. Wake up religious zealots, those you follow and support are punking you!

  5. therightdirection says:

    Cochran, McKoon, and Teasley all have my support.

    Folks like Konop are part of the reason why. Based on the tone of the comments, it seems like many of the opponents just hold deep-seeded resentment of religion in general.

    I mean come on, states like California and Connecticut have this law on the books but when Georgia tries to it’s a theocracy run wild? Puuhhleezz.

      • John Konop says:

        Harry,

        The real issue is I think through issues….not what I feel about an issue….lack of pragmatic thought about issues lead to failed war on drugs, no child left behind…..all with good intensions, but created a massive mess…..I have couple of very good French friends….they were upset about laws abused in their country via religious freedom….before the tragedy….

    • John Konop says:

      Irronic, you believe in Jesus…..and yet you are a big on judging others….maybe you forgot about focusing on your own issues…over judging others…

      All I am doing is pointing out how Senator Mckoon should think through all the ramifications of what he is pushing…..it is clear he is shooting from the hip…..if not he would clearly explain his position over just meaningless talking points…..you notice Mckoon clearly avoids the issues I brought up, and instead goes to talking points….not thinking out anything…

      If a county is 51 percent Amish….would Mckoon want them to have the right to ban the use of cars for everyone based on religious freedom? If you happen to be driving on the roads in the county they could throw you in jail via religious freedom laws? Or what if a county is 51 percent Cathlic and they force all resturants to serve fish only on Friday via religious freedom. A city is 51 percent Muslim and via religious freedom they do not have to be searched while entering a court via religious freedom. It seems Mckoon has no idea what the line is, and is wiling to open up a hornets nest in the name of religious freedom…..What you, Mckoon and France failed to understand is people have the right to worship what they want until it interferes with the rights of others….irronic a concept taught in the bible…. You know how much Jesus warned about false profits…..

      • Harry says:

        What if someone doesn’t want to sell a wedding cake to a couple of homosexuals? Whose freedom prevails?

      • therightdirection says:

        Am I mistaken or does this bill not have language regarding government’s “compelling interest” and using the “least restrictive means possible”. That sort of language (like the national and others) eliminates all of the worries you espouse, making them seem quite demagogic.

        And no, I did not judge you. I simply commented on yours and others’ tone.

        • John Konop says:

          Not true according to Senator Mckoon…..he used this case on this subject posted …and I substituted radical Muslim religious circumstances…..and Mckoon was clear it applied to that as well….read his comments….he even supported using it to overrule local zoning laws…..lets say a community has rules about quality of buildings, parking…..Senator Mckoon was clear his freedom of religion act was for that….he even posted the zoning case on another thread….If you clam it is for religious reasons his bill allows you to break zoning rules as well…according to Senator Mckoon.

          • therightdirection says:

            Lines 83-86 in Teasley’s bill (HB 29) have this language:

            Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if
            84 government demonstrates that the application of such burden to a person is in furtherance
            85 of a compelling governmental interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that
            86 compelling governmental interest.

            So for one example, if someone was trying to start a riot over something about religion and the cops arrested them, I think the cop’s action would be justified on both counts. There would be a compelling reason (prevent imminent violence) and if they did not stop the least restrictive means would be arrest.

            Senator McKoon’s bill hasn’t been dropped yet.

            • John Konop says:

              I am only going by comments from Senator Mckoon who is a lawyer……One thing lawyers are taught is how to spin a bill/law to create arguments….that is how they get paid…..

            • Andrew C. Pope says:

              The lines you cite are a restatement of SCOTUS’ strict scrutiny standard. Strict scrutiny is already applied to laws (be they state or federal) that discriminate upon someone’s religious liberty. It just goes to demonstrate the point which has been made again and again: the state RFRA wouldn’t do anything to protect “religious freedom” beyond what is already protected by the Constitution.

                  • gcp says:

                    Atlanta, Dekalb and several cities in Ga. have ordinances which prohibit discrimination against gays. Be interesting to see if Mckoon’s law would over ride these local ordinances.

                    • John Konop says:

                      What if a gay fire chief wrote a book, and claimed in their religion all straight people, are “vial and vulgar”……, and gave this book out to employees at his government job, and during annual reviews. I guess Senator McKoon would argue in favor of this under his freedom of religion act?

                    • gcp says:

                      Perhaps, but employment situations are different from business transactions. A gay chief as well as a nongay chief can violate workplace rules.

                      The line between personal views and how and when you can express them on the job is often unclear but that’s why we have workplace appeal systems, administative law judges and courts.

                  • Andrew C. Pope says:

                    John, also a protected class in the 2nd and 9th circuits.

                    Harry, you seem to think “freedom to discriminate against people I disagree with” and “freedom of religion” are the same thing. If a church doesn’t want to perform a gay wedding… fine, I get it. But, the cake and the wedding photos have nothing to do with the ultimate act of marriage. Not making their cake isn’t going to magically turn a gay couple straight. Making them get a different photographer won’t stop them from getting married.

                    I was raised to be friendly to everyone and, if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all. Look, how about instead of an RFRA we just all commit ourselves to not being misanthropic jerks and hating other people because they’re of a different sexual orientation, race, political orientation, etc.

                • benevolus says:

                  The idea of a “protected class” is weird. I mean, if you are an adult citizen you have rights. Why would any group have less rights? (Other than convicted criminals.)
                  Selling wedding cakes is not a religious act. It’s business. If you don’t want to serve everybody maybe you shouldn’t be in the retail business. I don’t like violence, so I am going to choose to avoid being in the MMA business.

                  I mean really, there isn’t anybody in retail who doesn’t sometimes serve people they would rather not. Suck it up, take their money, and go say a prayer on your break.

                  • Harry says:

                    That’s not how it work with religious beliefs. You don’t just take a break. That’s why Christians get in trouble in regimes in history and all over the world, from Neron to Hitler.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    A Christian professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Faith and Freedom coalition should either enlighten us with Jesus’ teachings of bigotry, or we should be referring to the Faith and as bigots.

    And where’s the broader Christian accountability? Muslims collectively are held accountable for terrorists.

  7. Andrew C. Pope says:

    Is Ralph Reed really facing religious discrimination? More broadly, are there any legitimate instances of state-supported discrimination against Christians? I’m a Christian and, quite frankly, can’t say I’ve ever been unable to freely and openly practice my faith. If Sen. McKoon or any other supporters of the RFRA would be so kind as to identify some of the religious freedoms currently being hindered by the state, I would truly appreciate it.

Comments are closed.