ATLANTA — Thousands have signed petitions calling for the mayor of Atlanta to reinstate the city’s fire chief after he was terminated following a complaint over a Christian book that he published containing brief remarks decrying homosexual behavior and other forms of sexual perversion.
To date, nearly 100,000 people have participated in efforts launched by Faith Driven Consumer, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Georgia Baptist Convention, the National Organization for Marriage and LifeNews in standing behind the former fire chief.
“By caving into the radical activists who decided to bully and harass Mr. Cochran, you have sent a message to all Atlanta residents that you will not support their own rights to hold and to express their religious values in the public square, but will sell them out to special interests and powerful lobbies,” reads the petition from the National Organization for Marriage. “I urge you to right this wrong and undo the harm done to Mr. Cochran and to all people of faith in Atlanta and throughout the country.”
As previously reported, Chief Kelvin Cochran 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.” The text was included on just one page out of the entire 160-plus page book, which does not center on homosexuality.
Following the receipt of a complaint over the quote, Mayor Kasim Reed placed Cochran on a one-month suspension while an investigation went forward. Shortly after he returned to work, Reed decided to terminate the fire chief over the publication. He alleged at a press conference last week that his decision had nothing to do with freedom or speech or religion, stating that Cochran was fired because he had not obtained approval from officials to publish the book. Reed also stated that he thought the chief could present legal liabilities for the city.
“[L]et’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.
“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.”
Petitions soon were posted by several organizations calling for Cochran to be reinstated. On Tuesday, a number of pastors and other Christian leaders gathered at the Georgia Capitol Rotunda in a rally in support of the former fire chief.
“He simply wrote a book based on the Bible, and he was fired for living a godly life before his department,” one pastor declared.
“No one in this country today should write a book about their personal beliefs and then lose their job over it,” another stated.
“Chief Cochran has spent a lifetime, ready at a moment’s notice, to fight the fires that threatened life and property. Today, he stands ready to fight the fire and flame of intolerance that threatens the freedom of every American,” declared Tony Perkins of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, who traveled to Georgia to be a part of the event. “I’ll tell you this; I am here to stand by his side. And I will stand by the side of Chief Cochran and anyone who answers this call to defend freedom.”
The event ended in a march to city hall, at which time Perkins’ organization, which in itself had collected nearly 30,000 signatures in support of Cochran, delivered boxes of petition signatures to Reed’s office.