Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Does Kelvin Cochran's definition of religious liberty justify his dismissal? Probably so

The situation involving former Atlanta chief Kelvin Cochran heated up today with a rally in his honor, new details about the investigation which led to his firing, and what I would call mind-bogglingly ignorant comments by Cochran which underscores just why his firing may have been appropriate.

From Think Progress:

The leader of the Family Research Council (FRC), a socially conservative organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled an anti-gay hate group in 2010, plans to join conservative pastors and “religious liberty advocates” at an Atlanta rally on Tuesday supporting a former senior city official who was fired after he expressed hostility towards gay people. Last week, Atlanta’s former fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, was dismissed due to a self-published book Cochran authored entitled Who Told You That You Were Naked? In that book, Cochran attacks “uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion,” and he describes sex between two men as a “vile, vulgar and inappropriate” act that “defile[s] their body-temple and dishonor[s] God.”

In announcing his decision to fire Cochran, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) cited the city’s nondiscrimination policy, adding that anyone who “creates an environment where that is a concern” will not remain a city employee.

FRC is presenting this as a case of religious discrimination — “If a government will fire someone for their religious beliefs, no beliefs are safe from government regardless of how sacred those beliefs may be,” accorrding to FRC’s press release — but that’s a red herring. Cochran was not fired because the city objects to his identity as a Christian. Indeed, Mayor Reed is also a Christian. Rather, Cochran was fired because of concerns that his now very public anti-gay views would create a work environment that was not welcoming to his gay subordinates. Mayor Reed also claims that Cochran published his anti-gay book without following protocols for seeking approval from city officials.

Meanwhile, according to a local Atlanta newstation, details came out about just who Cochran distributed his book to on his job, which contradicts his original story:

The 30-day report says that Cochran did not have the authority to publish the book, which is required by the city's code of ordinances. The report also says Cochran distributed the book to at least nine subordinates at work. According to the report, at least three of those who received the book said it had been given to them unsolicited.

In addition, the report says Cochran gave the book, unsolicited, to a battalion chief during a professional one-on-one meeting. The purpose of the meeting, the report said, was to discuss what the battalion chief needed to do to prepare himself for appointment to the position of assistant chief. The assistant chief's position in the Atlanta Fire Department is the only sworn position that a fire chief may appoint at his sole discretion. All other sworn positions in the fire department are filled through a pre-determined selection process.

The report describes a consensus among employees interviewed in conjunction with the investigation that publication of the book undermined Cochran's ability to lead the fire department. According to the report, continued assertions that Cochran was fired for his religious beliefs were demonstrably false.

"Mr. Cochran and I are both men of faith," Reed said in a statement released on Tuesday. "My decision has nothing to do with his religion and everything to do with his judgment and conduct as the leader of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and a member of my Cabinet. Mr. Cochran ignored the City's Ethics Code which establish a clear protocol which must be followed before a Commissioner may engage in private activity for pay. Mr. Cochran made numerous judgment decisions regarding the book that are unacceptable for a leader in City of Atlanta government: he sold the Book without the requisite approval; he authored the book identifying himself as the Atlanta Fire Chief; he distributed the book at work, despite the fact that its content expressed opinions which are contrary to the City's and my personal commitment to nondiscrimination; he exposed the City to potential litigation from employees; and he published the book without ever mentioning it to me. Mr. Cochran's decisions as a City official, not his religion, resulted in his termination."

But what caught my eye were comments Cochran made in this story:

"LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their belief regarding sexual orientation and deserve to be respected for their position without hate and discrimination, but Christians also have the right to express their beliefs as well," Cochran said.

Cochran seems to think that lgbts and Christians are diametrically opposed to each other.  His statement reveals a troubling mindset with regards to lgbts.  He seems to be saying that the rights of gays to live our lives openly and freely in the workplace is the same as his nonexistent right to denigrate us for doing so.

Is Cochran saying that if gay employees have the right to talk about, put pictures up, or even receive visits from their loved ones and children at work, he is perfectly justified in labeling them as sinners in the same environment?

If that is the case, then Cochran has a very screwed up idea of "religious liberty." People should be free to talk about their families and their marriages at work without fear of being denigrated simply because another employee has a religious belief against these marriages and families. And if being proud of your loved ones and family is somehow a slight to someone's religious beliefs, that's not your problem. That problem lies with the person espousing the religious belief.

I don't see how Cochran can compare the two scenarios and I would love for him elaborate on what he meant.

Editor's note - Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is taking a lot of heat from ignorant people because he stood up for the lgbt community. Please show him your support by retweeting the following editorial by the New York Times which supports his actions and tweeting support at @kasimreed #IStandWithKasim or #ReedWasRight 

Seriously, folks. We need to stand up for those who go to bat for us. Lord knows it's not easy .


Unknown said...

Kelvin Cochran: "LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their belief regarding sexual orientation and deserve to be respected for their position without hate and discrimination, but Christians also have the right to express their beliefs as well," Cochran said.

The expression of the belief that LGBT citizens cannot be Christian -- and therefore can have no legitimate religious beliefs -- is an act of disrespect in itself. An act promoting the psychological subjugation of LGBT people. An expression of oppression.

FRC: "If a government will fire someone for their religious beliefs, no beliefs are safe…"

Religious beliefs that deny the existence of, and therefore the need to respect the (pro-gay) religious beliefs of others is anti-American and worthy of persecution. The expression of Live and let live beliefs will survive just fine.

Erica Cook said...

He was not fired for his beliefs. He was not fired for his publication. He was fired for making other people have contact with something that showed he did not respect of support them. If he had gone through the right channels with publishing his book, and even simply showed that he wrote it and had it available to those in the station that may want it he would have been fine. He chose to go that step too far and make it a matter of handing it out, which is as good as saying, "you have to agree or else." That is too far.