First Amendment rights upheld in Kelvin Cochran case

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By Gerald Harris

ATLANTA – Kelvin Cochran, a fellow Georgia Baptist and current Chief Operating Officer of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, has won his case with the city of Atlanta. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who had represented Cochran in his lawsuit against former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, announced today that Cochran had won the case.

ADF and its coalition of more than 3,200 Allied Attorneys has been fighting to defend religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family for almost 25 years in America and around the world.

Kelvin Cochran

In December 2014 Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was suspended without pay by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, because he authored a Christian book, “Who Told You that You Were Naked?” in which he described homosexuality as a perversion. Subsequent to Cochran’s suspension, Reed’s office opened an investigation to determine whether the chief discriminated against employees.

The fire chief was ordered to undergo “sensitivity training” after activists who didn’t agree with the fire chief’s Christian views on sex complained about the devotional Bible study Cochran had written on his own personal time. Biblical sexual morality is mentioned only briefly in the 162-page book.

In a press release by Alliance Defending Freedom, it was explained, “After an investigation that included interviews with employees found Cochran did not discriminate against anyone, the mayor fired him anyway – citing as his basis, ironically, the need to tolerate diverse views.

“The city of Atlanta has agreed to pay its former fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, $1.2 million in the wake of a December 2017 court ruling that found some of the city’s policies that led to his termination are unconstitutional. The court determined that Atlanta’s rules restricting non-work speech, like the book for Christian men that Cochran wrote, were too broad and allowed city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree.

 “On Monday, the city council voted on the specific amount of damages and attorneys’ fees that it owes to the highly decorated former fire chief after negotiating with his Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys.”

The ADF press release also stated, “The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before they engage in free speech. It also can’t fire them for exercising that First Amendment freedom, causing them to lose both their freedom and their livelihoods.”

ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, who argued before the court on behalf of Cochran last year, stated, “We are very pleased that the city is compensating Chief Cochran as it should, and we hope this will serve as a deterrent to any government that would trample upon the constitutionally protected freedoms of its public servants.”

At the March Executive Committee meeting it was announced that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board has forged a partnership with The Church Alliance of Alliance Defending Freedom, which permits churches to receive a discounted rate from the group providing legal advice and representation in cases involving religious liberty.

The current news regarding the victory won for Kelvin Cochran by ADF illustrates the validity and need for this partnership and merits praise for J. Robert White, Mike Griffin and others who may have envisioned the value for such a cooperative relationship. It is also relevant that statistical information from ADF indicates that they win over 80 percent of their cases.

The Church Alliance helps churches in four ways: (1) by providing a religious liberty audit of a church’s bylaws and policies to ensure that the church is in the strongest possible position should its religious liberty be tested; (2) by giving the church direct access to religious liberty attorneys to ask questions about the church’s religious liberty as they arise or to seek consultation about specific situations intersecting with religious liberty; (3) by providing on-demand and breaking resources that educate and empower churches to understand the legal landscape as it relates to the religious liberty of churches; and (4) pro-bono legal defense for churches who find themselves in a religious liberty legal situation. Churches can sign up as part of the Church Alliance at www.ADFChurchAlliance.org. The program has been made affordable so even the smallest churches can participate.

Read more Christian Index coverage on the Cochran case here, here, and here

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