Former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran has some new friends in the form of six Republican U.S. congressmen from Georgia. The group fired off a letter to Mayor Kasim Reed today asking for Cochran to be reinstated. Cochran will be appearing at a press conference Wednesday at the Capitol with Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel David Cortman, who is representing Cochran in his EEOC complaint against the city.

The letter says that Cochran’s self-published book, in which he compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality as well as made anti-Semitic and misogynistic remarks, was about “proper sexual ethics.” The letter was signed by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Rep. Buddy Carter, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Rep. Tom Price, Rep. Austin Scott, and Rep. Jody Hice.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice was one of the GOP congressmen who signed a letter in support of Kelvin Cochran. (file photo)

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice was one of the GOP congressmen who signed a letter in support of Kelvin Cochran. (file photo)

Chief Cochran’s termination appears to have occurred because he wrote a 160 page book for his bible study in which one and a half pages describe his Christian beliefs regarding proper sexual ethics. Despite writing the book on his own time, Chief Cochran has been accused of engaging in “discrimination” for merely expressing his religious beliefs.

The congressmen also state that Reed’s actions violated Cochran’s “religious freedom.”

Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom. Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion. Indeed, in terminating him, the City of Atlanta itself engaged in an act of discrimination, and worse, did so on the basis of his religious beliefs.

Hice, who was elected to the U.S. House over I.K. Kenneth Dious last November, wrote in his 2012 book, “It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America,” that, “the homosexual movement is also destroying America by aggressively seeking to destroy traditional families, religion and marriages for the purpose of removing all societal moral boundaries.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city of Atlanta last month on Cochran’s behalf. Meanwhile, conservative evangelical leaders have appeared to be distancing themselves from Cochran and drawing distinct parallels between his firing and the “religious freedom” bills being considered in the state legislature.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mayor Reed:

As Members of Congress representing the state of Georgia, we write to express our concern about the recent termination of Chief Kelvin Cochran of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department on January 6, 2015.

Chief Cochran’s termination appears to have occurred because he wrote a 160 page book for his bible study in which one and a half pages describe his Christian beliefs regarding proper sexual ethics. Despite writing the book on his own time, Chief Cochran has been accused of engaging in “discrimination” for merely expressing his religious beliefs.

Chief Cochran’s book was published over a year ago, and there is no evidence that Chief Cochran has ever discriminated against or been the subject of any complaints of discrimination while serving in the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.

Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom. Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran could avoid his views would be to disown his religion. Indeed, in terminating him, the City of Atlanta itself engaged in an act of discrimination, and worse, did so on the basis of his religious beliefs.

As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissal solely because of his religious views. Chief Cochran’s views did not harm his ability to carry out his duties at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and thus his speech should have been protected.

Chief Cochran notes that the city justified his termination on the grounds of ”tolerance” and “inclusion” yet asks, “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?” We agree and respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision to terminate Chief Cochran, and reinstate him in his position.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders

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