From Alan Noble in First Things:
According to former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, he was fired for being a Christian. According to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, he was fired for insubordination and poor judgment. And according to the New York Times’s recent editorial, he was fired for speaking of his subordinates as “second-class citizens.” But the argument over the motive for Cochran’s firing and its effect on civil and religious liberties obscures a deeper disagreement over Christian conceptions of sin and the consequences of those ideas in a public work environment. More than a mere difference in theology, this disagreement has dramatic implications for pluralism.
In November of 2014, Mr. Cochran was suspended when it came to the attention of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed that the fire chief had published and distributed a book that included references to homosexuality as “vile” and “vulgar.” Mayor Reed condemned the book and launched an investigation into its publishing and to determine whether Mr. Cochran had discriminated against his subordinates. After a month-long investigation, Reed offered Cochran the choice to resign or be terminated. Cochran chose to be fired.
According to the mayor, Cochran was fired for bad judgment. He didn’t get proper authorization before publishing the book, he distributed it to subordinates who did not ask for the book, and he talked publicly about the investigation while it was ongoing. But Mayor Reed’s press conference to announce the termination suggested that more than just poor judgment led to his termination. Reed adamantly declared that this wasn’t about religious beliefs, but he began his press conference by reading the city’s strict non-discrimination policy. If Cochran was terminated for poor judgment, why bring up “discrimination” at all? Notably, the mayor’s own investigation found no evidence of discrimination.
Cochran’s perspective is that he was fired for expressing his Christian faith. To support this claim, Cochran points to the lack of any evidence of discrimination and he has publically stated his commitment to treating all subordinates with equality. Then there is the fact that much of the mayor’s response has focused on distancing himself from the content of Cochran’s book, rather than condemning Cochran’s breach of protocol. Many of Cochran’s critics also made it clear that his belief itself was grounds enough for dismissal. For example, Glen Paul Freedman, chair of Georgia Equality’s board of directors said:
His views towards the LGBT community are shameful. He will be back in charge and I am sure telling his staff anti-LGBT stuff. I wonder how many LGBT AFD staff were not promoted or held back because of his views and telling his staff his views. The Mayor should fire him!