Six Georgia House members have jumped to the defense of the former Atlanta fire chief, claiming he was fired for believing in the Bible — and should be reinstated.
In a move that escalates the fight between Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and supporters of Kelvin Cochran, lawmakers led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk this week said the firing robbed the former chief of his religious freedom to speak and write his view.
“Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom,” they wrote to Reed. “As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissed solely because of his religious views,” they added.
While the city said Cochran’s religious beliefs had nothing to do with his November suspension and eventual firing last month, he and his supporters claim it was retaliation for a book he published over a year ago that, among other things, equates homosexuality with bestiality.
City officials said the book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? was published without prior approval from the city because it identified Cochran as the city’s top fire official. Cochran also didn’t abide by demands he stop talking about the controversy.
Religious freedom groups, like Alliance Defending Freedom and Faith Driven Consumer, have come to the ex-chief’s defense. Faith Driven Consumer told Secrets Wednesday that 10,000 have signed their petition to Reed to reinstate Cochran. And ADF filed a suit Wednesday to get Cochran his job back.
The letter from the six House members raises the political element in the controversy. In it they said Cochran’s belief in the Bible is at stake.
“Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion,” they wrote. “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”firstname.lastname@example.org.