Atlanta fire chief who criticized homosexuality may fight ouster

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2015 4:56 PM

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Atlanta's ousted fire chief is considering a legal challenge against the city, Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom said on Thursday, arguing that his firing over a book critical of homosexuality was an attack on his faith.

Kelvin Cochran was forced out as leader of the city's Fire Rescue Department on Tuesday.

Alliance Defending Freedom said it was representing the ex-chief, who the group contends was wrongfully terminated and was never found to have engaged in any discrimination.

"The city nonetheless fired him for nothing other than his Christian faith," the group said. "ADF and Chief Cochran are currently assessing the legal options available to vindicate his right to free speech."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the chief was not fired due to his religious beliefs but rather because of questions that arose about his “judgment and ability to manage the department" in connection with the book.

Cochran wrote a 2013 book titled, "Who Told You That You Were Naked?," in which he called homosexuality “vulgar” and “the opposite of purity.”

Reed said the city has a clear policy that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and that Cochran's published views could be a legal liability.

Cochran consulted the city’s ethics officer but not the mayor before he published the book, Reed said.

Cochran was named Atlanta fire chief in 2008. Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009 to serve as U.S. Fire Administrator, he spent 10 months in that job before returning to Atlanta for the city's fire chief position.

He had just finished a one-month suspension while the city investigated the book before he was fired.

Cochran declined to be interviewed but in a statement on Thursday accused the city of Atlanta of intolerance.

"This happened to me, but it's really not about me,” Cochran said. “It's a warning to every American that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are hanging by a thread, which will snap if we don't fight to preserve these cherished protections."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)