Court rules for fire chief in religious liberty case
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 12/21/17, 09:53 am
A U.S. District Court judge ruled Wednesday that city of Atlanta rules used to fire former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran were unconstitutional. The ruling said policies restricting non-work speech allowed city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagreed. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Cochran without pay in 2014 because of a 162-page book Cochran wrote for men at his church, advocating for a historically Biblical view of marriage and sexuality. An investigation found no evidence Cochran ever discriminated against any member of the fire department on the basis of his religious beliefs. Despite that, in early 2015, the city fired Cochran. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May on Wednesday ruled in support of Atlanta’s right to fire Cochran because the city can fire with or without cause, but she ruled that city government policies restricting employee speech did not pass constitutional muster. “The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before engaging in free speech,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and Cochran’s attorney, said after the ruling. “In addition, as the court found, the city can’t leave such decisions to the whims of government officials. This ruling benefits not only Chief Cochran, but also other employees who want to write books or speak about matters unrelated to work.”
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Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.