A former Atlanta fire chief is in court today fighting for his job and defending his First Amendment right to free speech.
Kelvin Cochran, fired from his job last year after he wrote a self-published book about marriage and sexuality, is suing the City of Atlanta and its mayor, Kasim Reed, in federal court.
An attorney representing Kelvin Cochran, the fired Atlanta fire chief, says a federal judge seemed to understand the constitutional issues at hand.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kevin Theriot was among the legal team that represented Cochran on Wednesday in a federal court hearing.
The hearing was held after the City of Atlanta and Mayor Kasim Reed filed a motion to dismiss Cochran's lawsuit. ADF filed a motion in response, which the judge will now review. That decision could take up to two months.
Theriot tells OneNewsNow that attorneys for the city claimed that Cochran is free to believe as he wishes.
"He just has to keep them at his home, keep them at his church, keep them in his own little Bible study - completely contrary to the First Amendment," the attorney says of his client.
Theriot says attorneys for the city "essentially conceded" during the hearing that it's too early to dismiss Cochran's case unless the court finds that his beliefs about marriage and sex are a concern to the public.
ADF reports it's optimistic the case will go to trial unless the City of Atlanta decides to settle the case.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco tells OneNewsNow that Mayor Reed originally suspended Cochran because he was "deeply disturbed" by the book. Reed has since given other reasons for Cochran's firing, the attorney alleges.
"Those are what we call pretexts in the law," Tedesco explains, "things that you say to try and cover up the wrong things that you did. And that's what the city is doing here."
The case goes to trial today, beginning with a motion to dismiss filed by Reed.
Cochran's lawsuit alleges that Reed and the city fired Cochran "solely because he holds religious beliefs concerning same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct," views that are contrary to views held by Reed and the City of Atlanta.
Reed's lawsuit can be read here. The motion to dismiss can be read here.
Cochran wrote "Who Told You That you Were Naked" after he and fellow church members discussed Adam's sin at a men's Bible study.
The book includes discussion of homosexuality - in a city with an "LGBT advisor" to Mayor Reed and a "LGBT Liason Unit" in the police department.
According to Reed's motion to dismiss, some copies of the book were handed out to city employees and a city council member, Alex Wan, learned of its contents. The city's "upper management" was contacted, including human resources, and four days later Cochran was suspended.
After the fire chief was terminated, Wan said Cochran's firing "sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment."
USA Today identified Wan as Atlanta's only openly homosexual council member.
Cochran says his constitutional rights are on the line.
"All Americans are guaranteed the freedom of actually believing and thinking in such a way that does not cost them consequences that I've experienced in this termination," he says.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect results of the Oct. 14 court hearing.