Former Fire Chief Terminated For His Views Testifies for First Amendment Defense Act

Kelvin Cochran, a former fire chief in Atlanta, Georgia, testified during a congressional hearing about the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a bill that would bar the federal government from retaliating against individuals and organizations for opposing the redefinition of marriage and related issues.

Cochran said the mayor of Atlanta fired him for his views on homosexuality expressed in a self-published book, although the mayor claims, among other things, that he fired the chief for purportedly publishing the book without permission and handing out copies at work.

“My faith does not teach me to discriminate against anyone,” Cochran said at the hearing. “But rather, it instructs me to love everyone without condition and to recognize their inherent human dignity and worth as being created in the image of God and to lay down my life, if necessary, in the service of my community as a fire fighter. I would even do it today if it was necessary even in this very room.”

Mayor Kasim Reed initially suspended Cochran for 30 days while the city investigated. The government concluded that Cochran hadn’t discriminated against anyone, but the mayor fired him anyway. Cochran said he’d obtained the necessary permission from the city to publish the book, but his counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADA), contended that the permission requirement itself is unconstitutional.

Cochran is suing Atlanta and Mayor Reed.

One of FADA’s co-sponsors, Sen. Mike Lee, said that a person’s or organization’s beliefs about marriage should never be “any of the government’s business, and it certainly should never be part of the government’s eligibility rubric in distributing licenses, awarding accreditations or issuing grants. And the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always remain true in America.”

ADA attorney Kristen K. Waggoner said the protection measure “is very limited in scope, and it does not take away civil rights protections.”

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