Atlanta's fire chief was relieved of his duties Tuesday after publishing a Christian book that referred to homosexuality as a "sexual perversion."
According to the Washington Times, Kelvin Cochran came under fire in November for a book on Biblical morality he wrote for a men's Bible study. In the book, titled "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" Cochran wrote that his first priority as Atlanta's fire chief was to "cultivate [the department's] culture to the glory of God." He also expressed a Biblical view of marriage and referred to homosexuality as "unclean," "inappropriate" and "vulgar."
Shortly after the book was published, Cochran, who is a father and grandfather, was accused of distributing copies of it at work, prompting an investigation into possible discrimination within the fire department. During this time, the fire chief was given a month-long suspension from his position--without pay--and ordered to attend sensitivity training.
"I profoundly disagree with and am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed wrote at the time, "I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration."
On Tuesday, Jan 6, when Cochran was supposed to return to work, Reed announced that the Christian fire chief had been officially "relieved" of his position.
The mayor said Cochran was given an opportunity to resign and refused. "Bottom line, he was terminated," Reed said.
Alex Wan, the only openly gay member of Atlanta's City Council, expressed his approval regarding Reed's decision.
"I support the administration's decision to terminate Kelvin Cochran's employment with the City of Atlanta," Wan said in a released statement. "This sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment
Still in uniform after the news conference, Cochran told reporters, "I'm not apologetic for writing the book," adding that he will not hide his Christian faith.
"Everything I wrote in the book is based on scriptures, not my opinions," said Cochran, "I did not single out homosexuality.'I simply spoke to sex being created by God for pro-creation and He intended it to be between a man and a woman in holy matrimony - and that any other sex outside of that is sin."
Cochran added that he ran the idea of the book by the city's ethics department and was given the go-ahead. He had also given Reed and several other members of the fire department copies of the book a year ago without any pushback.
"LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their belief regarding sexual orientation and deserve to be respected for their position without hate and discrimination, but Christians also have the right to express their beliefs as well," said Cochran.
Religious groups, including the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Georgia Baptist Convention, have rallied around the fire chief to decry what they believe is an violation of religious freedom and demand that Cochran be re-appointed, the Journal-Constitution reported.
"In our country we don't punish people for the potential to discriminate we punish them for actually discriminating. To our knowledge unless the mayor knows about it and hasn't said so there's no allegation to speak of," explained FFC spokesperson Robert Potts
Although he has been treated poorly by his superiors, Cochran says he does not bear them any ill-will.
"The essence of the Christian faith is a love without condition, sir," he told Fox News. "I have demonstrated that love in the fire service for 34 years. There's not any person of any people group that has interacted with me for any measure of time that can say I have hate or disregard or discrimination in my heart for any people group."
He added, "I'm not discouraged and I'm not downtrodden.This is a God thing and He's going to do great things and He will vindicate me publicly."