Former fire chief Kelvin Cochran was fired by the city of Atlanta, Georgia, in 2015 because of a book he published where he expressed his Christian views. Now the city will have to pay Cochran a $1.2 million settlement.
After two years of fighting the city, a Federal District Court ruled in December 2017 that the city’s policies leading to Cochran’s firing were unconstitutional. Now, after many more months of stalling, the city has reached a settlement.
As Fox News reported:
The city of Atlanta has settled a lawsuit with a former fire chief over his firing for a book containing passages which some saw as anti-gay.
The Atlanta City Council approved a settlement agreeing to pay fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran $1.2 million.
In 2013, Cochran wrote a book about his Christian faith titled “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” for a men’s Bible study and gave it to around a dozen subordinates he said had either requested copies or shared his beliefs
The city said that the court ruling left them no choice:
A spokesperson for the City of Atlanta said that “based upon findings of the Court that could have resulted in tax payers paying millions of dollars in damages and litigation fees negotiated settlement was recommended by legal counsel.”
“Our Administration remains committed to achieving One Atlanta—a city that is fair, just and inclusive,” the spokesperson told FOX 5. “The City is developing the first LGBTQ employee resource group to support our City employees. The hiring of the City’s first-ever, full-time LGBTQ affairs coordinator, the establishment of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board and the funding of the City’s first Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are also examples of our commitment to ensuring that Atlanta remains a welcoming city for all.
As CBN News reported:
Cochran’s career had been about protecting others. For 30 years, he did that as a firefighter. He served as the US Fire Administrator under President Barack Obama and led the City of Atlanta to attain the highest level of fire and rescue preparedness for the first time in its history.
But that came to an end in 2015, when the City of Atlanta fired him because he wrote a men’s devotional book in his spare time – a book that briefly mentions his views on a biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality.
As CBN News reported, the city did not approve of Chief Cochran’s book. After a 30-day suspension without pay, in order to complete “sensitivity training,” and an investigation into his conduct (which showed he had never discriminated against anyone in the fire department), his career came to an end in Atlanta.
This led Cochran to embark on a three-year legal battle that he says was never just about him.
“The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before they engage in free speech. It also can’t fire them for exercising that First Amendment freedom, causing them to lose both their freedom and their livelihoods,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in a press release. “We are very pleased that the city is compensating Chief Cochran as it should, and we hope this will serve as a deterrent to any government that would trample upon the constitutionally protected freedoms of its public servants.”
Well, looks like Mr. Cochran is right, after all.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.
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