Fire Chief Torched by Anti-Faith Mayor

By Tony Perkins

Atlanta’s Kelvin Cochran knows all about fire — but being fired? That’s a whole new experience — one Cochran hopes other Christians never face. The long-time member of the city’s Fire Rescue Department was forced out of the squad in a shocking display of anti-religious prejudice after a distinguished career that an appointment by the Obama administration as the U.S. Fire Administrator.

Unfortunately for Cochran, Mayor Kasim Reed seems intent on making an example of the African-American, who self-published a book — with the permission of the mayor’s office — on biblical morality. After chatting with a handful of Christian co-workers, Kelvin offered them copies of Who Told You That You Were Naked? which includes a chapter on human sexuality that’s consistent with the Bible’s teaching on the subject. Despite the fact that Cochran had his superiors’ approval, and despite the fact that he only gave the book to friends, he was suspended late last year — until yesterday, when the Mayor fired him.

In one of the greater ironies of the controversy, the New York Times covered Cochran’s story in today’s paper, just a few pages over from an editorial in which it proclaims that there are no consequences for religious liberty in the marriage debate! It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. Meanwhile, Mayor Reed, who’s feeling the heat from this firestorm, insists that Kelvin’s “personal religious beliefs are not the issue” — which is ridiculous, since that’s exactly what he’s being fired for!

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When Cochran took the oath of office, “it ended with the phrase ‘So help me God.’ If glorifying God was a violation, he said, ‘I should have been fired at the very end of my oath!’”

Obviously, it’s one thing to use your platform to intimidate subordinates, but the idea that you should have to surrender your First Amendment rights merely for being a public servant is outrageous. What’s to prevent the government from going after another employer or contractor? Clearly, the goal is to sanitize the public space of all religious content — whether or not it’s constitutional, which this is.

First, liberals wanted Americans to check our beliefs at the workplace door. Now they want us to check them at the door to our personal life. Increasingly, the expectation is that anyone in public service shouldn’t serve in Sunday school, lead Bible studies, write books, or believe anything contrary to the state religion of secularism.

But contrast Cochran’s experience with that of two Rhode Island firefighters. They sued the mayor and fire chief because they were forced to march in a gay pride parade in their official capacity. If anyone was imposing their beliefs on public servants, it’s the Providence Fire Department! Instead, the court dismissed the Christians’ case, insisting that it was a “legitimate work assignment” and not a violation of their religious beliefs. These judges seem to think it’s okay to impose your views on public employees — as long as they’re liberal ones! Imagine if firefighters were ordered to join the March for Life! I’m sure pretty sure the judges would’ve had a different opinion.

We applaud Cochran for standing up and speaking out. Unless more people do, tolerance will continue to be a one-way street that gives liberals another avenue for running over Christians! Do your part to support Kelvin Cochran by signing FRC’s petition and forwarding it to friends.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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