|Kelvin Cochran's 'religious freedom' martyrdom failed in the courts.|
No matter how much prestige it may receive or how thick the cloak of morality it may drape itself with, an organization dedicated to undermining LGBTQ equality via lies and misdirection will always show itself as the brazen nest of hypocrites it is.
I speak of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Alliance Defending Freedom. Today it claimed a victory in court regarding a fired Atlanta fire chief. However it turns out that their cheering was a simple misdirection:
A federal district court ruled Wednesday that city of Atlanta rules which led to the termination of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran are unconstitutional. The court found that the city’s policies restricting non-work speech, like a book for Christian men that Cochran wrote, are too broad and allow city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree.
“The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before engaging in free speech,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, who argued before the court on behalf of Cochran last month. “In addition, as the court found, the city can’t leave such decisions to the whims of government officials. This ruling benefits not only Chief Cochran, but also other employees who want to write books or speak about matters unrelated to work. Atlanta can no longer force them to get permission or deny them permission just because certain officials disagree with the views expressed.”
With regard to the city’s “pre-clearance” rules, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia wrote in its decision in Cochran v. City of Atlanta, “This policy would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing. It is unclear to the Court how such an outside employment would ever affect the City’s ability to function, and the City provides no evidence to justify it…. The potential for stifled speech far outweighs an unsupported assertion of harm.”
The court added that provisions within the rules “do not set out objective standards for the supervisor to employ.” “This does not pass constitutional muster,” the court concluded.
Cochran wrote a 162-page devotional book on his personal time that briefly mentions his Christian views on sex and marriage. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for 30 days without pay and announced that he would have to complete “sensitivity training.” Reed then fired him, even though a city investigation concluded that he did not discriminate against anyone.
This press release by ADF omitted a lot of information as to what the court actually said. In truth, Cochran won on only two claims he filed. However, he lost on the claims of free speech retaliation, viewpoint discrimination, and association.
Those last three were major claims because ADF and others of its ilk was pushing this as a "religious freedom case."
Feel free to read the court ruling yourself.
Or if you want a summary, the following is a breakdown on twitter of the court ruling by the independent news service TPF News:
1. Kelvin claimed that his firing violated his 1st Amendment rights to free speech at his employment. The court disagreed with his finding. When placed against the Pickering test, Cochran's claims fails, and fails miserably. pic.twitter.com/xRg8SaLqdo— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
2. Kelvin and ADF's claim that his free speech, while serving as a representative of the Atlanta Fire Department, an entity who is representative of the City of Atlanta, was violated, fails the 4-part Pickering test set forth by #SCOTUS. His speech disrupted work for others. pic.twitter.com/sCOWA7nD8V— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
3. On the freedom of association 1st Amendment claim, Cochran and ADF failed again. The court sided with the City of Atlanta. What this means is simple, Kelvin Cochran's firing was 100% constitutional, and it did not violate his 1st Amendment freedom of speech. pic.twitter.com/q1jNnQU8My— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
4. The only part of the case that ADF "won" is being blown hugely out of purportion. The City of Atlanta's pre-clearance rules were ruled unconstitutional, & the court sided against Cochran's claims of free speech violation, meaning, thus, that his firing was 100% legal. pic.twitter.com/9aYWstKecE— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
5. Also, in the ruling, the court finds that the City of Atlanta can fire individuals for any reason, at any time. This part of the ruling flies in the face of the ADF press release, which claims that Cochran won his case. He did not. The city of Atlanta won. pic.twitter.com/a8c6YRrQlK— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
6. In conclusion: The city won in its arguments on 1) 1st Amendment retaliation 2) 1st Amendment freedom of association retaliation 3) viewpoint discrimination 4) no religious tests clause of Constitution 5) 14th Amendment due process Cochran only "won" on prior restraint. pic.twitter.com/hkHk3XpF8X— 🇵🇷TPF News🇵🇷 (@TPFNewsLive) December 20, 2017
And according to Equality Files:
Summary Judgment in favor of Cochran on 2 claims re ATL's Pre-Clearance Rules: prior restraint and unbridled discretion (see pg 16); All other claims, including 1A free speech retaliation, association, viewpoint discrim, etc. in favor of Defendants https://t.co/1krQOWixnd— Equality Case Files (@EQCF) December 20, 2017
So basically, in spite of what ADF and other religious right groups may say, Cochran did not win this case. He won on two claims, but the claims, i.e. the ones for which Cochran was anointed by the religious right as a martyr of free speech and religious freedom, were the ones in which the court DID NOT rule in his favor.
It helps to get the truth out because no matter how many times people lie, the truth will always come shining through. It can't be completely destroy nor can it be diminished by lies or spin.