Kelvin Cochran Responds to Atlanta’s Motion to Dismiss

Kelvin Cochran, the former fire chief in Atlanta terminated by Mayor Kasim Reed for his religious beliefs, continues his fight.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the group representing Cochran, responded to the city’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit. An excerpt:

In the motion, the city claims it was entitled to fire Cochran because the views he expressed in a Christian devotional book “caused at least one [fire department] member enough concern to complain to a City Councilmember” and because Cochran distributed the book to a handful of department members, most of whom had asked for a copy and none of whom objected.

“In America, a religious or ideological test cannot be used to fire a public servant, but that’s precisely what the city did,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “That endangers everyone who works for the city who may hold to a belief that the city doesn’t like. Furthermore, the First Amendment fully protects the freedom of any public employee to distribute religious materials at work to those willing to receive them, and no city rule—written or unwritten—can override that freedom.”

Reed recounted in his 2014 State of the City Address that he “begged” Cochran to return to Atlanta in 2010 from his job as U.S. fire administrator in the Obama administration. Cochran agreed, and the city council confirmed him to serve a second time as the city’s fire chief, a job Cochran originally held from 2008 to 2009. In 2012, Fire Chief magazine named Cochran “Fire Chief of the Year.”

That last bit is interesting. Apparently, Cochran was a valued government employee, but the homosexual lobby’s disapproval of his religious views trumped all that.

Regarding the city’s rule for employees to seek permission before publishing books, the ADF contends such a rule is unconstitutional and notes that Cochran actually obtained permission from a city official.

ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco said that Atlanta “exonerated Chief Cochran from any discrimination, but then it cited the need to tolerate diverse views as the reason for firing him. That demonstrates the city’s hypocrisy as well as the true reason for why it fired the chief: It simply didn’t like his religious beliefs—an unjustifiable reason for firing any public employee.”

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