Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) announced Tuesday that he has fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who had previously been suspended for publishing and distributing a book condemning homosexuality.
“I want to make my position and the city of Atlanta’s position crystal clear,” Reed explained. “The city’s nondiscrimination policy… really unequivocally states that we will not discriminate.” Any individual who violates that policy or “creates an environment where that is a concern” will not continue to work with the city.
Since Cochran’s suspension last month, he has become a bit of a martyr for conservatives, who believe he has been persecuted for his religious beliefs. J. Edgar White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, suggested that Cochran was among those “who are punished or marginalized for their faith” and called on Christians to purchase his book and support him.
Reed was adamant during Tuesday’s press conference that Cochran’s religious beliefs were not the reason he was fired. His book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, was published in violation of Atlanta’s Standards of Conduct, which requires approval from the Ethics Officer and the Board of Ethics. According to Reed, Cochran’s “actions and decision-making undermine his ability to manage our fire department” because employees need to feel that they are “a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions.”
“Let’s stop trying to make this about ‘religious freedom,'” Reed urged, “when it’s about making sure we have an environment in government where everyone, no matter who they love… can do their job and go home without fear of being discriminated against. That’s what this is about.” The mayor also said that he resented the multiple emails he received over the holidays calling him the “anti-Christ,” insisting that Cochran’s book is “clearly inflammatory.”
“To those folks who were calling me and telling me that I should retain him, I just want you to know one thing,” Reed concluded. “His religious decisions are not the basis of the problem; his judgment is the basis of the problem.”
An opinion piece by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jay Bookman similarly castigated the ex-fire chief for his judgment. “When you have been suspended without pay from your job, as Cochran was,” Bookman wrote, “you can’t make it clear during the suspension that you intend to continue such statements and then expect that you’ll be reinstated.”
Cochran’s book contained passages that referred to “uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion,” describing homosexuality among behaviors that are “vile, vulgar, and inappropriate” and “defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”