By most people's standards, Kelvin Cochran isn’t having a good week.
This past Tuesday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced Cochran had been relieved of his duties as Fire Chief. It seems the Mayor was concerned Cochran's personal beliefs about homosexuality would interfere with his ability to lead a diverse team.
The firing followed a 30-day unpaid suspension on which Cochran had been placed after coworkers complained about a religious book he'd written titled, Who Told You That You Were Naked? In the book, which advocates the benefits of living a Christ-centered life, Cochran describes homosexuality and lesbianism as “unclean” and “sexually perverse.”
Here’s the actual passage:
“Uncleanness—whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.”
Cochran claims the Mayor knew Cochran was writing the book and that he’d been given permission to identify himself as a Fire Chief for the city of Atlanta. The Mayor denies that claim.
Supporters of the Mayor’s action say the city can’t tolerate discrimination, and Cochran should have known better.
Cochran is not without his own supporters, however. One commenter on Amazon.com wrote:
“I bought this book because the author was suspended without pay from his ‘regular’ job for a month just for writing it. I don't even know if I'll read it but harassing authors and psuedo (sic)-banning of books is the quickest way to get me to buy one. Many thanks to His Honor the Mayor of Atlanta for making such a big deal about it and bringing it to my attention.”
At a press conference this past November announcing Cochran’s suspension, the Mayor said:
“This is about judgment. This is not about religious freedom. This is not about free speech. Judgment is the basis of the problem.”
And on his Facebook page, the Mayor wrote:
“I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community. I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.”
Discrimination you say?
I’m confused. My understanding is that discrimination is an act, not a set of beliefs.
Frankly, I think we’ve gone too far.
Not buying it
By all reports, the Mayor did receive a number of complaints about Cochran’s book, and I can appreciate his unwillingness to take the heat. History has shown that most politicians aren’t interested in suffering one iota of unpopularity on someone else's behalf.
But for the Mayor to vilify Cochran as a bigot—that’s just cold. And cowardly. Cochran had served as the Fire Chief since 2008, and the press hasn’t reported a single charge of discrimination against him. That tells me the Mayor is full of crap. Show some guts, dude, and admit you fired Cochran because his little book is creating too many PR problems for you. Most people wouldn't blame you for that.
I agree that Cochran should have known better (and perhaps he did but took a risk anyway). Homosexuality is a polarizing issue, and the biblical perspective of sexual immorality is not welcome in many circles.
Still, it’s a mistake to fire people just because they have a different moral code. In fact, it borders on preposterous.
Ism over here, ism over there, isms, isms everywhere!
I’ve worked with plenty of people who held all kinds of beliefs I’d consider offensive.
I’ve worked with people who think woman should stay the hell home. I’ve worked with people who believe black folks are inferior in every way imaginable. I’ve worked with people who think Christians are idiots, and God is a bully (if He even exists). I’ve worked with people who think interracial marriage is icky. I’ve even worked with truly twisted individuals who believe other human beings are nothing but tools to be used for their benefit. Some of these damn people were my bosses.
But since when is it okay to tarnish a person’s reputation while taking away his livelihood because you object to his right to publicly align himself with the Bible's teachings? That’s wrong. We can’t claim to be a nation that values religious freedom and then punish people for actually living those beliefs.
Again, nobody has brought forth a valid claim that Cochran ever illegally discriminated against anyone in his charge. In fact, I’ve yet to read that Cochran ever made a disrespectful, let alone discriminatory, remark to or about his employees.
And yet, the Mayor is saying Cochran’s beliefs made some of his former employees “uncomfortable,” and their discomfort is proof they’re working in a potentially hostile work environment. This is foolishness of the highest order.
In his defense, Cochran stated:
“I did not single out homosexuality. I simply spoke to sex being created by God for pro-creation and [that] He intended it to be between a man and a woman in holy matrimony—and that any other sex outside of that is sin.”
A commenter on one website asked who Cochran thought he was to call someone else a sinner?
Well, newsflash. Bible-believing Christians think everyone is a sinner in need of redemptive grace. Maybe we should fire ALL the Christians in authority? Clearly none of them can be trusted to treat people fairly, seeing as how they have such a low opinion of the human race.
Lord have mercy.