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Thousands of Christians Rally in Support of Fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran

( [email protected] ) Jan 14, 2015 01:11 PM EST

Atlanta Fire Chief Speaks at Rally
Kelvin Cochran addresses the crowd at the Standing for Our Faith Rally at the Georgia Capital. Photo: BGEA.com

Over 80,000 signatures have already been registered for Kelvin Cochran to be reinstated as Atlanta's fire chief by Mayor Kasim Reed, with thousands of emails flooding into the Atlanta Mayor's Office bearing the subject line "Christian firing."

As of Wednesday morning, the American Family Association's petition has received nearly 43,000 signatures, while the Family Research Council's petition has garnered more than 32,000 signatures.

Numerous other faith-based and conservative activist groups, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, National Organization for Marriage, Life Site News, and Faith Driven Consumer  have vocally supported the re-hiring of Cochran.

The decades-long department veteran was fired last week from his position as fire chief after the city investigated a book he wrote that included short passages affirming his Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin.

After Cochran released the religious book, titled Who Told You You Are Naked? for a Bible study at his church, he was suspended without pay in November by the city's mayor, Kasim Reed, for one month. Upon returning to work last week, the mayor informed Cochran that he was fired for "lack of judgement" and "insubordination."

However, an internal report conducted by the mayor's office found that there was no evidence that Cochran treated lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender firefighters unfairly.

On Tuesday, Christian leaders from throughout the country converged on Atlanta in a show of support for Cochran. Thirteen speakers took to the podium during the "Stand for Religious Freedom Rally," including Family Research Council's Tony Perkins.  Pointing to the fact that Cochran has been on the front line defending property of others from fire, Perkins told the crowd of several hundred,  "Today he stands ready to fight the fire and the flame of intolerance that threatens the freedom of every American. And I will tell you this: I am here to stand by his side."

Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and President of Samaritan's Purse, also voiced his support for Cochran.

"He is being persecuted for his religious views, and this should not be tolerated, and we need to come together and support men like this," Graham told Fox News, "This is true discrimination."

Cochran has said that his strong Christian faith and the support for him and his family has strengthened him during the ordeal. "1 Peter 4:12 and 13 says: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffering that when His glory shall be revealed you may be glad with exceeding joy," he said.

Cochran added that his termination sends a loud message to others who work under Mayor Reed.

"If you seek to live out the true meaning of our nation's pledge and Constitution and have a living faith that does justice, and [if you] believe that sex should be between a man and a woman in the bonds of holy matrimony, we have made a great statement that you better keep your mouth shut or you will be fired," he stated.