Friday, February 27, 2015

Was Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran Wrongly Terminated?

Image result for kelvin cochran fire chief
Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran

In an interesting case, Atlanta Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran was recently terminated (, reportedly over a self-published book entitled “Who Told You That You Were naked”? (

In the book, Cochran, a devout Christian, described homosexuality as a perversion and made clear his own belief that Marriage is Biblically defined as being between one man and one woman.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Cochran’s book identifies the Chief as a devout Christian and as the city's fire chief, equivalent to the FDNY’s Chief-of-Department.

Those views immediately drew rebuke from others in government. Atlanta City councilmember Alex Wan, who is openly gay, asked Mayor Kasim Reed to investigate whether Cochran's views have affected LGBT employees. Initially, Chief Cochran was suspended for 30 days.

Ultimately Chief Cochran was fired because of “concerns that his now very public anti-gay views would create a work environment that was not welcoming to his gay subordinates.”

The Supreme Court seems to offer little comfort to Chief Cochran, as Justice Antonin Scalia explained in his majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, “the right of free exercise [of religion] does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).”

SOME have interpreted this to mean that so long as Atlanta’s anti-discrimination policies apply equally to discrimination that is motivated by faith and discrimination that is motivated by some other reason, Cochran’s free exercise rights are not implicated here.

That’s NOT at all so clear cut. “OFFENSE,” like pornography and beauty lie entirely within the eye of the beholder. Religious people rightly take offense to many secular views, just as more secular people take some offense to many religious views.

That’s why attempting to legislate based on “offense,” leaves everyone subject to the whims of whatever is the prevailing orthodoxy of the day. One day secularists prosecute the religious for “offense” and “bigotry,” the next the religious take power and prosecute the secularists for the same. That’s a nightmare.

The 1st Amendment, like it, or not, protects ESPECIALLY (in many ways SOLELY) intemperate, obnoxious, “offensive,” even revolutionary speech and ideas, because ONLY such ideas require such protections.

In my view, Chief Cochran has as much right to state his views as does Alex Wan to state his.

The ONLY valid reason for terminating someone like Chief Cochran would be some actual criminal/illegal act, of which “offense” (whether legitimately legislated, or not) DOES NOT rise to that level. IF Chief Cochran had actively encouraged/coerced subordinates to purchase his book, OR, if he actively sought to exclude homosexuals from the Atlanta Fire Department, for no other reason than their being gay, THOSE would certainly rise to the level of criminal acts, BUT merely stating/writing his beliefs, while “offensive” to some, does not and SHOULD NOT rise to any level of criminality, any more than a homosexual merely stating his/her own beliefs.

Attempting to criminalize “offense” is a dangerous road that often turns back on those naïve souls who were merely looking to reduce “offense.” Naïve policies are generally bad policies, fraught with unintended consequences.

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