February 2016 Church & State - February 2016

Former Atlanta Fire Chief May Sue Over Termination

  AU admin

A federal court has ruled that a controversial ex-fire chief of Atlanta may move forward with his lawsuit against the city.

Kelvin Cochran, who served as Atlanta fire chief in 2008 and from 2010-2014, sued the city last year with the assistance of Alliance Defending Freedom, a Religious Right legal group, following a dispute over the distribution of religious material.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for 30 days after he distributed copies of his religious book to employees. The book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, compared LGBT people to pedophiles.

“Uncleanness – whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion,” Cochran wrote. In another passage, he wrote that gay sex and premarital sex “defile” the human body.

“I am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community,” Reed told press at the time.

A spokesperson for Reed’s office told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the book’s content violated city anti-discrimination policies. When Cochran refused to enroll in sensitivity training or cooperate with an investigation into his behavior, the city terminated his employment.

Cochran quickly sued, claiming that he’d been wrongfully dismissed due to his religious beliefs. In his complaint, he argued that his behavior “did not threaten the City’s ability to administer public services and was not likely to do so.” City attorneys disagreed and moved to dismiss his suit, but a federal court ruled that the suit may progress to the fact-finding stage.

The case is Cochran v. City of Atlanta.


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