Concerned About the Firing of Kelvin Cochran, GOP Congressmen Write Atlanta Mayor Reed

Several members of Georgia’s U.S. House delegation have sent a letter to Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed expressing their concern over the firing of Kelvin Cochran, the fire chief who self-published a book that contained passages critical of homosexuals.

Signed by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (GA – 11), Rep. Buddy Carter (GA – 01), Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA – 03), Rep. Tom Price (GA – 06), Rep. Austin Scott (GA – 08), and Rep. Jody Hice (GA – 10), the letter expresses their concern about the firing:

Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom. Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion. Indeed, in terminating him, the City of Atlanta itself engaged in an act of discrimination, and worse, did so on the basis of his religious beliefs.

As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissal solely because of his religious views. Chief Cochran’s views did not harm his ability to cany out his duties at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and thus his speech should have been protected.

Mayor Reed maintains Cochran was terminated because of subordination, specifically by not getting prior authorization to publish the book and talking about the incident while he was suspended.

You can view a copy of the letter here, or read the entire thing below the fold.

Dear Mayor Reed:

As Members of Congress representing the state of Georgia, we write to express our concern about the recent termination of Chief Kelvin Cochran of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department on January 6, 2015.

Chief Cochran’s termination appears to have occurred because he wrote a 160 page book for his bible study in which one and a half pages describe his Christian beliefs regarding proper sexual ethics. Despite writing the book on his own time, Chief Cochran has been accused of engaging in “discrimination” for merely expressing his religious beliefs.

Chief Cochran’s book was published over a year ago, and there is no evidence that Chief Cochran has ever discriminated against or been the subject of any complaints of discrimination while serving in the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.

Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom. Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion. Indeed, in terminating him, the City of Atlanta itself engaged in an act of discrimination, and worse, did so on the basis of his religious beliefs.

As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissal solely because of his religious views. Chief Cochran’s views did not harm his ability to cany out his duties at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and thus his speech should have been protected.

Chief Cochran notes that the city justified his termination on the grounds of”tolerance” and “inclusion” yet asks, “What could be more intolerant and exclusionmy than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?” We agree and respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision to terminate Chief Cochran, and reinstate him in his position.

60 comments

  1. benevolus says:

    Context is everything. Flirting is OK in a lot of circumstances, but not with someone who works for you. At that point, the distinction between just flirting and protecting your job becomes too blurry. Same with religion- do your thing but if you ever proselytize with people who work for you, you are exposing yourself to trouble.

      • MattMD says:

        It is so curious to me how you are always so up on anything to do with homosexual topics and discrimination.

          • georgiahack says:

            Does it matter? If the rules are that one can’t distribute, and he did by his own admission, and he breaks those rules then that is the punishment. A speeder going down the highway doesn’t have to “offend” me to break the law and get a ticket.

      • Will Durant says:

        And yet his initial one month suspension was for doing just that.
        Not only that, we have it right from the horses mouth from the city’s investigation report obtained by the AJC:
        “Chief Cochran stated that he provided the book to certain members of his command staff as a personal gift. He originally stated that he did not provide it to anyone who did not request a copy. The investigation disclosed that the book was distributed in the workplace to at least nine (9) individuals. Three (3) of these officers stated that the book was given to them without a request on their part.”

        Judgmental Harry bearing false witness himself? Much like the congressmen here stating that he was fired solely for expressing his religious views when they know otherwise.

  2. saltycracker says:

    What is unusual is that it is usually republicans that would stand behind the right of the boss to fire without cause as they serve at the will of the boss. They would be expected to call out grandstanding for others coming up with personal privileges interpretations.

    Sure hope they don’t call for fire union support.

  3. Xcubed says:

    Consider the scenario that Cochrin is white and in his innocent writings/beliefs he states that black people are black because God punished then for their sin. I believe this is/has been the belief of some religions in the past and is still discussed in some sects. How do you think this would have gone? I doubt if the Congressmen of Georgia would be supporting that religious freedom. I truly believe that had it not been about, so called, religious freedom, that the black Mr. Cochrin would have never been supported by these Congressmen.

  4. Andrew C. Pope says:

    So a gaggle of Congressmen who do not represent Atlanta want to tell hizzoner how to do his job. Great use of your time, gentlemen. I’m sure Kasim was dying to hear what a homophobic mouth breather like Jody Hice thought about the Cochran firing.

    • Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

      I think you may be right. And I think Mayor Reed is right.

      If Ralph Reed and his merry bunch of helpful freedom fighters did not get involved this issue would not exist. Timing is everything.

  5. blakeage80 says:

    If you scroll quickly enough through this thread, it starts to look like a loop. Harry, Will, Harry, TheEiger, Harry, Will, Rick, Harry, Will, Harry, TheEiger, Harry, Will, Rick, Harry…

    • TheEiger says:

      I’ve only posted once on this thread sir. To be honest. I think the mayor probably has grounds to fire the chief.

  6. c_murrayiii says:

    There is no reason for a Congressman to pontificate on a purely local matter in a city government. While they certainly have every right to comment on whatever they want, the principles of local control and respecting the Federal system of governments would seem to promote keeping out of such issues. In addition, the basic fact is that these fellows in Washington have a whole heck of a lot more to be concerning themselves with as part of their actual job. Like someone said, this is theater of the most banal sort, intended to rile up the few remaining folks out there like Harry.

  7. Ed says:

    Congrats to the congressbaboons who needed a month to formulate an opinion on a matter so critically important to the citizens of Pooler, Ranger and other cities.

  8. CountPetofi says:

    Yeah, a “policy” by the all-omniscient Atlanta City Government Human Resources Department is going to trump 1st Amendment protections that allow Freedom of Speech and Religion. The Haters are gonna be crying in their Cheerios when the City of Atlanta gets thrown over the proverbial log like Ned Beatty.

    • John Vestal says:

      Except this isn’t a 1A issue. This wasn’t government curtailing the religious practices of a private citizen. This was an issue of an employee acting in the workplace in a manner which could/did create a hostile work environment. And, yes, virtually ALL employers have policies that would have resulted in counseling and/or disciplinary action for this type of behavior.

        • John Vestal says:

          And, again, (1) “sexual orientation” *is* what you would call a “protected class” in the City of Atlanta, and (2) yes, the vast majority of corporate employers in the private sector do include sexual orientation in their harassment/discrimination policies.

          It’s 2015, Harry. Do try to catch up.

          • Harry says:

            True about Atlanta’s designation of homosexuals as a “protected class”, but not sure it would hold up in court, even in a civil process. I wonder if localities can make such arbitrary designations. And, the vast majority majority of corporate employers in the private sector do not include sexual orientation in their harassment/discrimination policies. Some large US public companies do so to avoid harassment from that group. And, in 2015 more and more people are deciding that they don’t like to be pressured by that group.

  9. alpha male says:

    I don’t pretend to know whether the mayor’s legal grounds for termination will stand. But regardless of whether it does or not, this entire situation is going to end up much better for Chief Cochran than it does for Kasim Reed.

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