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Bible Citation Costs Atlanta Fire Chief His Job

Galatians 5 versus 1 Corinthians 14: Mayor critiques Kelvin Cochran's publishing of his religious views on homosexuality.
Bible Citation Costs Atlanta Fire Chief His Job
Image: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Atlanta’s fire chief lost his job this week, after the mayor called his beliefs on homosexuality “inconsistent” with the work of the city.

Kelvin Cochran was suspended for 30 days then fired, following complaints that he promoted antigay views in a 2013 self-published Christian book.

A 34-year veteran of various fire departments (including a 2009 stint as President Obama's pick for the nation's fire administrator) and deacon at a Southern Baptist megachurch, Cochran wrote Who Told You That You Were Naked? aimed at Christian men and titled after God’s after the Fall.

The book mentions his belief that sex was designed by God for a man and a woman.

A year later, when the book came to the attention of city officials, Mayor Kasim Reed said he worried that Cochran’s positions in the book would lead to accusations of discrimination.

“I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs," he said.

Though Cochran stated he had prior permission to release the book, Reed said it was done without proper review and that Cochran violated the terms of his suspension by publicly defending his stance, according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Baptist Press, which details Cochran's defense, paraphrased Reed as explaining, "Critics who believe in obeying the Bible should recognize that Cochran violated the command of 1 Corinthians 14:40 to do all things 'decently and in order' surrounding the book and ensuing investigation." WSBTV has the press conference with the exact quote.

“His judgment and management skills were the subject of the inquiry and my decision to terminate his employment with the City of Atlanta,” Reed wrote in an email Tuesday, quoted in The Washington Post. “Cochran’s personal religious beliefs are not the issue.”

Southern Baptists in Georgia are calling on the city to reinstate Cochran, saying the dispute infringes on his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and belief.

The controversy has spurred broader interest in the title; all of the reviews on Amazon for Who Told You That You Were Naked? have been posted in the past six weeks. Atlanta resident Chris Chancey read the book and pointed out the three quotes that refer to Cochran’s beliefs about homosexuality, the most contentious being a list paraphrased from Galatians:

"Since God made sex for procreation, he only intended it to be between a man and a women."

"When a man's eyes lack spiritual discipline it will lead him to lust for women, lust for other men, covetousness, idolatry and all kind of desires."

“The seventeen works of the flesh described in Galatians 5:19–21 are: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envying, drunkenness, and reveling. Uncleanness is the opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion.”

The New International Version of the Galatians passage in question reads:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Other translations can be .

Cochran stands by his book and his beliefs, telling his church he trusts that God will be glorified in his circumstances.

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