What religious rights do Christians have in the workplace? A court case in Atlanta may begin to restrict those rights in ways that should concern us. The case involves former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. As I discussed in the previous commentary, he was fired from his job because of a devotional book he wrote that addressed sexual issues from a biblical perspective.
Cochran has been a firefighter since the early 1980s. He was even appointed by President Obama as the U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States. He had been the fire chief of Atlanta from 2008 until the beginning of this year.
A lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom said that the city of Atlanta “actually argued that you’re entitled to have beliefs and opinions, but you have to keep them to yourself, inside the four walls of your house or your church—that you shouldn’t bring them out into the public, and you shouldn’t bring them out if you’re employed by a government agency.”
It is worth remembering that Cochran gave his book to some fellow employees but did not talk about these issues while on the force. There was not problem until a copy of the book made it to a city councilman who is openly homosexual. The councilman in a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution said: “I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee, and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s you have to check them at the door.” Atlanta’s mayor said he felt that the book would be disturbing to the LGBT community.
It is also worth mention that no one has ever accused Cochran of discrimination against anyone based upon his or her sexual orientation or any other characteristic. I think this is merely about the biblical perspective in his book. That may be why the city is now trying to say he was terminated for other reasons than the religious nature of the book.
This case, and a number of others, will determine whether we have true religious freedom in the workplace.