By NRB staff
WASHINGTON (BP) — National Religious Broadcasters presented on Sept. 15 its 2016 Faith & Freedom Award to former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, whose employment was terminated last year by the mayor because of his Christian faith and beliefs.
“Last weekend was the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and one of the images that comes to mind is that of the heroic firefighters and other first responders of that day. Well, Kelvin Cochran is a firefighter among firefighters, a hero among heroes,” said NRB President and CEO Jerry A. Johnson.
“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 noted.
Fired in the name of tolerance
Among prior recipients of NRB’s prestigious Faith & Freedom Award is Mike Pence, governor of Indiana and 2016 Republican Party nominee for vice president of the United States. Pence was honored in 2009 as a congressman from Indiana.
On Nov. 24, 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran for 30 days and announced that he would have to complete “sensitivity training” after complaints were received about a men’s devotional book Cochran had written on his personal time. Biblical sexual morality is mentioned only briefly in the 162-page book, and an investigation that included interviews with employees found Cochran did not discriminate against anyone. Regardless, the mayor fired him, citing as his basis the need to tolerate diverse views.
“Chief Cochran, my heart aches when I think of how you have been treated,” said Johnson, a Southern Baptist who formerly served as dean of Boyce College, president of Criswell College, and seminary administrator and trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “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.”
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.”
‘Relentless’ attack on freedom
“The attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech in our beloved United States of America is relentless,” he said.
“Every day, Americans have to make a choice as to whether they will live out their faith or keep their jobs or business,” he noted. “As such, there is a significant need for the Body of Christ to rise to unprecedented levels of unity and solidarity regarding religious liberty.”
Likening suffering because of his faith to biblical accounts of persecuted government officials, Cochran said today’s Christian public servants must have the same resolve and refuse to bow down.
“Like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, it’s time for Christian-elected and appointed government officials to wake up,” he said, noting the historical figures and their trials told in the Book of Daniel.
Cochran’s message to fellow Christian public servants is to be prepared for the inevitable suffering that will come their way.
“We should rehearse in our hearts and decree: God has prepared me for this. God is with me,” he said. “I’m not going to be discouraged by the worldly consequences of my standing. I’m going to rejoice in anticipation of the kingdom consequences that God has promised.”
Case pending in ADF lawsuit
On Feb. 18, 2015, a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta was filed on behalf of Cochran by Alliance Defending Freedom on grounds of religious discrimination. The case, Cochran v. City of Atlanta, is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.
Before becoming Atlanta’s fire chief in 2008, Cochran served in the same position in his hometown of Shreveport, LA. In 2009, he was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as United States Fire Administrator. Cochran returned to his post in Atlanta in 2010. In 2012, Fire Chief magazine named Cochran as “Fire Chief of the Year.”
Cochran is an ordained minister and currently serves Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta as chief operating officer/chief strategic officer. He is married to Carolyn Marshall Cochran and the father of three children and grandfather to one grandchild.
NRB annually presents the Faith & Freedom Award to a stalwart defender of religious liberty at its Capitol Hill Media Summit, the annual gathering of the NRB President’s Council in Washington, D.C. Past award recipients include former Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.), Alliance Defending Freedom President & CEO Alan Sears, former Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), Rep. Greg Walden (R.-Ore.), Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R.-Va.), Rep. Trent Franks (R.-Ariz.), former Rep. Frank Wolf (R.-Va.), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-Mo.).
National Religious Broadcasters staff compiled this report.