Anti-gay Atlanta fire chief back on job, becomes face of Georgia’s ‘religious freedom’ fight

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran returns to his post Tuesday, Jan. 6, after a 30-day suspension without pay for going against city policy by writing a book that included comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

Cochran was suspended by Mayor Kasim 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.”

Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, has called for Cochran to be fired while the religious right has jumped to Cochran’s defense and is now using him as the poster child for a renewed effort to push through “religious freedom” bills this legislative session.

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

State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), who sponsored a failed religious freedom bill in the last session, prefiled on Dec. 30 a new bill, HB 29, titled “Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression.” State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), sponsor of the bill in the Senate last year, has said he will also reintroduce the bill again this year.

Many LGBT activists believe the “religious freedom” bills were part of an organized national effort by the Alliance Defending Freedom to strike back at gay victories.

“This is probably our opposition’s newest form of organizing―looking at so-called religious liberties and saying that you can do whatever the hell you want based on any deeply held religious beliefs,” said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Brad Clark last March at a local panel. “It’s clearly a license to discriminate against LGBT people.”

Many Georgia corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Intercontinental Hotels Group and Home Depot, are also speaking out against the proposed religious freedom bills and were crucial in blocking them from being passed last year.

In October, anticipating another battle over the bills again this legislative session, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce declared strong opposition to such religious liberty or religious freedom bills.

Cochran hardly kept quiet during his suspension. He spoke out to the executive committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention and on Dec. 28 addressed the First Baptist Church in Newnan where he defended his beliefs and his anti-gay views.

From the Dec. 31 Times Herald:

In his book, Cochran said that he dealt with sexuality as God intended.

“God intended for men and women are to be together to have children and populate the Earth,” Cochran said. “And any sex outside marriage and outside of a man and woman in holy matrimony is against the word of God. For that stand, I have been laid off for 30 days without pay.”

However, Cochran emphasized that he is not a victim of his beliefs, nor is he discouraged or disheartened.

“I love our city, and honor and respect our mayor and love all the people of the world,” Cochran said. “I took an oath to die for all people, under any circumstance. This is not about me, it’s about the Lord.”

Cochran stated that his reputation was not on the line.

“I took a stand for Christ, and it’s his reputation that is on the line,” he said. “Jesus never throws us under the bus. He will be glorified and I will be vindicated once all the truth comes out.”