Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ousts anti-gay fire chief

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired by Mayor Kasim Reed today, the day Cochran was to return to work after a 30-day suspension without pay for going against city policy by writing a book that included comparing homosexuality to bestiality. Reed made the announcement this afternoon at a press conference at City Hall.

“Certainly we agree with Mayor Reed’s position on this and his rationale for it,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham moments after the announcement was made. Georgia Equality had called for Cochran to be fired.

Cochran’s anti-gay views could only make for a hostile work environment, Graham noted.

“This is not about his religious views but his about his ability to lead a diverse work force,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that this had to happen. I feel the mayor has done the right thing to ensure all employees are treated fairly.”

A phone call to Cochran’s home was answered by a woman who said he was busy and to call back later.

At the press conference, Reed reiterated the city’s nondiscrimination policy that prohibits prejudice based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, and sex. Reed said Cochran was given the option of resigning but refused to do so resulting in his termination today.

Mayor Kasim Reed at a packed press conference at City Hall announcing Kelvin Cochran fired as city fire chief. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)
Mayor Kasim Reed at a packed press conference at City Hall announcing Kelvin Cochran fired as city fire chief. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)

“His personal religious beliefs are not the issue at all despite the number of comments and emails I have been receiving on a daily basis,” Reed said at a packed press conference. “His judgment and ability to manage the department was the subject of this inquiry.” Reed named Deputy Chief Joel C. Baker as the interim fire chief.

Interim Chief Joel Baker.
Interim Chief Joel Baker.

Cochran published his book in violation of the city’s standard of conduct, Reed stressed, and he said every single employee in the fire department deserves to come to work in an environment where they feel safe in keeping with the city’s policy on nondiscrimination.

“His actions around the book, his statements during the investigation, eroded my confidence in conveying that message,” Reed said.

Reed added that he believed the city faced serious liability if Cochran remained on the payroll.

“If you work in an organization, you check in with person signs your check. And that didn’t happen here. And after that happened there was no contrition about it,” Reed said. Cochran spoke publicly about his suspension at religious events during his suspension, drawing the ire of the mayor.

Mayor Reed's LGBT liaison Robin Shahar, left, and Georgia Equality Board Chair Glen Paul Freedman at the press conference. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)
Mayor Reed’s LGBT liaison Robin Shahar, left, and Georgia Equality Board Chair Glen Paul Freedman at the press conference. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)

“And let me speak from my heart for a minute. This is about judgment. I don’t think anyone who works in a business could make a decision [and write a book] and never talk to the leader of that organization, which is me. Not one time … did he ever think it appropriate to have conversation to me despite the position I and my administration have [on LGBT issues and nondiscrimination],” he added.

Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan, the only openly gay person on the council, agreed with the mayor’s decision and said he was pleased with the final result.

Cochran was suspended by Reed on Nov. 24 after media reports of Cochran’s self-published book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” included excerpted anti-gay passages that state:

• “Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion.”

• “Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God.”

The book not only preached anti-gay language, but also included anti-women and anti-Jewish material as well.

Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and founder and head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, urged members and supporters to email and call the mayor to reverse the suspension and to tell him to stop “infringing on religious freedom.”

An Atlanta Firefighters Union released a statement praising Reed’s decision to fire Cochran.

“Atlanta Professional Firefighters Local 134 would like to commend Mayor Reed and his administration for their decision to terminate Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. Local 134 supports LGBT rights and equality among all employees. Atlanta Professional Firefighters believe we should take this opportunity work with city council and the Reed administration to improve LGBT rights by adding an LGBT liaison for the fire department. We look forward to working with City Council and the Mayor, and hope to provide any assistance they need going forward,” the statement reads.

Other excerpts from the book include:

1. “The naked condition was evident in the religious leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees during Jesus’ ministry on earth. The religious leaders were absolutely convinced that their righteousness was based on the staunch law code and their ancestry in the bloodline of Abraham. Jesus Christ could not convince them otherwise. Many believers today are absolutely convinced of their salvation through the blood of Jesus, but that the law code is still essential to righteousness. The Word of God cannot convince them otherwise.
Jewish leaders had made up their mind that the message of righteousness by faith through grace was a message of heresy. They believed in God but they rejected His Salvation, His Son and His message. Many believers today have also made up their mind that the message of righteousness by faith through grace is heresy. They believe in God and His only begotten Son, but they reject His Salvation, His message of grace and righteousness by faith.” (page 31)

1. “Ever wondered what would have happened if Eve would have said ‘You need to talk to my husband.’ What if she would have said, “Do I know you? Who are you? Why would I listen to you? I don’t know you? I do know God. He created this garden, these trees, animals, and all these creeping things; he created my husband and formed me from my husband’s rib. He even created you! Why would I listen to you? You neeed to talk to my husband.’
‘Adam! Adam! Come over here right now. This snake can talk! He just called God a liar! He’s trying to convince us to eat from the one tree the God told us not to eat from lest we die. He told me “We shall surely not die!”
I believe these words coming from Eve would have empowered and emboldened Adam as the protector of Eve and the Garden. He would have responded with righteous indignation and killed the serpent on the spot- even cut off his head. The scriptural account could have possibly been ‘And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Adam and he cut off the serpent’s head and they lived happily ever after.’
Unfortunately that’s not what happened…” (page 47)

2. “After seven days of crying and nagging, Samson gave in and gave her the answer. His weakness for whining, nagging women would ultimately cost his destiny. He lost the bet because of her.” (page 116)

Public Servant:
1. “As a professional firefighter, from the time I began the recruit academy I was placed in uniforms provided by the city…[lists clothing/gear items]. After the initial issuance we are furnished a clothing allowance in order that everything we need to be properly attired could be sustained on an ongoing basis. The uniforms are paid for by taxpayers.” (page 57)

2. “Personal Life Application: God gave me my fire service land, field, career. He gave me the job of being a fire service leader, Fire Chief of Atlanta Fire Rescue. He also made me the head- United States Fire Administrator. My job description as a fire chief of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department is:

To cultivate its culture for the glory of God
To keep it focused on its mission of saving lives and property
To sustain its culture, its members and its capabilities both now and for future generations.” (page 76)