ATLANTA — A Georgia fire chief has been fired following a 30-day suspension over a book that he published two years ago that contains remarks decrying homosexual behavior and other forms of sexual perversion.
Mayor Kasim Reed made the announcement publicly on Tuesday during a press conference, explaining that he had terminated the chief because he allegedly had not obtained approval from officials to publish the book and that he thought the chief could present legal liabilities for the city—an allegation that the chief disputes.
“[The book] was published in violation of the city’s standards of conduct, which require prior approval from the ethics officer and the Board of Ethics,” he said, adding, “After the fire chief so clearly stated his position on a number of issues, I thought that it created a potential liability for the city. That was unacceptable to me as mayor of the city of Atlanta.”
As previously reported, Chief Kelvin Cochran of Atlanta was suspended for one month beginning in late November and was placed under investigation as to whether he violated city policy or engaged in discrimination by publishing the book “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”, which was compiled as a result of a number of lesson plans that he had prepared over time for men’s Bible study groups. The book, available on Amazon, is centered on God’s question to Adam following his disobedience in the Garden of Eden, and parallels the matter with those who are now “clothed in Christ.”
While “Who Told You That You Were Naked” was published in 2013, it was reportedly not until last November that Atlanta employees complained to Mayor Kasim Reed about its content.
“Uncleanness [is] whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion,” Cochran wrote. “Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”
But it wasn’t Cochran’s writings against sexual perversion that got him into hot water; it was the fact that he included homosexuality among those behaviors that are cited as being “vile,” “vulgar” and “inappropriate.”
“I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs,” Reed stated in November. “I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community. I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.”
On Tuesday, in announcing that he had decided to terminate Cochran as fire chief, Reed said that the matter was “not about religious freedom” or freedom of speech, but rather Cochran’s judgment in not seeking approval from the city before publishing the book.
“His personal religious beliefs are not the issue at all,” Reed said. “I … want to point out to a lot of folks calling my home and emailing me on a nonstop basis that I too am a person of very deep religious faith.”
“Not one time during the course of preparing this book did Chief Cochran ever think that it was appropriate to have a conversation with me despite that I have made my opinion and my administration’s opinion clear on this topic [of homosexuality],” he continued. “So if anyone wants to know the most important factor that led me to my decision, that is it.”
Reed then reiterated that he doesn’t believe the matter had to do with religious freedom.
“So let’s stop trying to make this about religious freedom when it’s about making sure that we have an environment in government where everyone—no matter who they love—can come to work from 8 to 5:30 and do their job and go home without fear of being discriminated against,” he said.
But Cochran said the he indeed did seek out the ethics officer prior to publishing the book, and not only was he granted permission to proceed, but he was also allowed to include in his biography that he served as the fire chief of Atlanta. He said that he gave a copy of the publication to Reed in January 2014—nearly a year before the controversy erupted—and was told by the mayor that he would read it.
Cochran says that he should be able to express his views without punishment, regardless of who agrees or disagrees.
“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,” he told reporter Todd Starnes. “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.”
The former fire chief subsequently advised that he does not hate or discriminate against anyone.
“There’s not any person of any people group that has interacted with me for any measure of time that can say I have hate or disregard or discrimination in my heart for any people group,” he explained.
Cochran also noted that he only mentioned homosexuality on one page within the entire 160-page book, but that the issue has now been turned into a matter about homosexuality because of those who highlighted text that they disliked on one page.