Ex-Atlanta fire chief files discrimination complaint

Chief Kelvin Cochran said he faced religious discrimination when he was fired after publishing a controversial book


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has filed a federal discrimination complaint contending he faced religious discrimination when the City fired him after he published a book that contained controversial statements about homosexuality.

Cochran swore out the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by the City of Atlanta on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Attorney Jonathan Crumly filed an EEOC complaint Wednesday on behalf of Cochran, who was fired this month after complaints about his self-published 2013 book, “Who Told You You Are Naked?”

“Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live without fear of losing their jobs because of their beliefs and thoughts. We are continuing to evaluate all available legal options to vindicate Chief Cochran after his unjust termination,” said Crumly, who is allied with the group Alliance Defending Freedom that has rallied to Cochran’s defense.

Mayor Kasim Reed fired Cochran over his distribution of his book, which condemns homosexual acts as “vile, vulgar and inappropriate,” at work.

City spokeswoman Anne Torres said the City did not know of the complaint but intended to defend Reed’s decision to fire Cochran “whether, through the EEOC administrative process or in any other appropriate forum.”

The EEOC typically investigates a discrimination complaint to determine whether it plans to bring action on behalf of the plaintiff in federal court.

Reed has contended he didn’t fire Cochran because of his expressed religious viewpoints but for not obeying rules, including not getting clearance to write the book and failing to remain quiet while the city investigated him.

Cochran, a deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church, said in his EEOC complaint that he did get permission from the city’s ethics office to publish the book but was later told he also needed the mayor’s permission and that he had also violated “unspecified policies.”

He said top city officials told him that their investigation showed “zero” instances where he had discriminated against anybody as chief but that because “my faith influenced my leadership style” he would have to lose his job.

The controversy made national news and religious group have come to Cochran’s defense, such as the Alliance for Defending Freedom, which advocates for the freedom to express faith.

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