Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, whose employment was terminated last year by the city's mayor due to Cochran's Christian faith and beliefs, was presented the 2016 Faith & Freedom Award on Thursday by National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) leaders.
On Nov. 24, 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for 30 days and announced the chief would have to complete "sensitivity training" after complaints were received about a men's devotional book Cochran said he had written on his personal time. Biblical sexual morality is mentioned only briefly in the 162-page book entitled "Who Told You That You Are Naked?" and an investigation that included interviews with employees found Cochran did not discriminate against anyone.
Reed fired Cochran, citing "the need to tolerate diverse views" as the basis.
The book since became a fight over "religious liberty." Reed told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he terminated Cochran not just because the fire chief didn't consult him before publishing the book, but also spoke out about his suspension, despite being told to remain silent during the investigation into his leadership. Reed also said he believes Cochran opened up the city to the potential for litigation over future discrimination claims.
"Chief Cochran, my heart aches when I think of how you have been treated," NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson said during the presentation. "Your steadfast faith and your winsomeness even among those who have been unjust to you is a powerful testimony. We are honored to present you with NRB's 2016 Faith & Freedom Award."
Johnson hailed Cochran as "a firefighter among firefighters, a hero among heroes."
"Now, he has become a hero not just for protecting our communities, but for standing bravely in the face of what even some extreme liberals like former Rep. Barney Frank seem to think is unjust discrimination for his faith," Johnson added.
In accepting the award, Cochran said he was "honored and humbled beyond words," and also noted that his story "is but one of a growing list of many where a government entity and special interest groups have imposed adverse consequences on an American for publicly proclaiming a position based upon biblical truth that is not consistent with popular culture or the shifting pluralisms of political correctness."
Among prior recipients of NRB's prestigious Faith & Freedom Award is Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana and 2016 Republican Party nominee for U.S. vice president. Pence was honored in 2009 as a Congressman from Indiana.