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Fire Chief

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The fire department is supposed to put out a fire, but the mayor of Atlanta has decided to fan the flames by firing Atlanta’s Fire Chief. His offense? The mayor and some members of his department were angry over Kelvin Cochran’s book written for a men’s bible study that addresses sexual sin. Although the mayor insists that his decision to fire Cochran has nothing to do with his faith, most people don’t buy the mayor’s argument.

The mayor’s office was flooded with emails and phone calls, just days after the decision to fire the 30-year veteran firefighter and former Obama appointee. Two weeks ago, hundreds of people gathered in the Georgia state capitol for a “Standing for our Faith Rally.” The protesters then marched to city hall and delivered a petition with 50,000 signatures.

Reverend Franklin Graham stepped forward to say that Cochran “was persecuted and denied his career because of his privately-held religious beliefs.” He went on to describe the mayor’s actions as “true discrimination.”

At the press conference Cochran said: “I was fired for having the audacity to believe that sex was created for procreation and should be in the bonds of holy matrimony between a man and woman.” Bishop Paul Morton was one of the black pastors who warned the city: “We cannot allow this country—we cannot allow Atlanta—to become a communist country.” He added: “If they can stop us from talking about the Bible, then the next step is they’ll take our Bible. And if they take our Bible, and heard you talking about the Bible then they’ll try to penalize us. But I’m here to tell you, we’re not going out this way.”

The firing of the Atlanta Fire Chief who had a long and distinguished career makes the case for states adopting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The federal government enacted this legislation in the 1990s, and now various state legislatures (like Georgia and Texas) are debating similar laws. Public servants like Kelvin Cochran need this protection.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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