While many people are gearing up for Supreme Court arguments over the rights of a religious baker, a case involving the rights of a religious fire chief also remains up in the air.
Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran says he was fired for his Christian faith and beliefs. The case began in 2014 after Cochran self-published a men's devotional book he had written on his personal time. While the book does mention biblical sexual morality, attorney Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom says it was only a brief mention in the 162-page book.
"We had a hearing on whether or not the court would go ahead and decide the case without a trial or that the case would proceed to trial – it's called a summary judgment," says Theriot about the November 17 hearing before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
"[At that] hearing both sides presented arguments as to why they think that they should succeed – and what we argued, on behalf of Chief Cochran, is that the city has conceded that they considered the content of the speech and his book about his religious beliefs when they suspended him without pay and when they fired him; and because of that, that violated his constitutional rights."
Atlanta argues that it is an inclusive city and an inclusive employer. But according to Theriot, Atlanta's definition of inclusiveness means excluding those that disagree with the city.
"Not only did the mayor say but several of his staff [also] said Look, these were offensive to us and therefore we got rid of him," he explains. "That clearly violates the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment."
A decision by the judge in Cochran v. City of Atlanta is expected in December or early next year.
The City Attorney's Office in Atlanta did not respond to OneNewsNow's request for comment.
Attorney: Tolerance is a two-way street
"What the City of Atlanta did here was say We are not tolerant of your views, but you need to be tolerant of ours – and that is simply not supported by the First Amendment," Theriot continues.
The attorney describes Cochran's case as "one more" in the line of cases involving religious expression – e.g., Colorado baker Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop (a case currently before the Supreme Court); and Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist in Washington.
"These are the kinds of situations where people of faith are being discriminated against because of what they believe in, and because they have the guts to actually say what they believe in this politically correct society," Theriot concludes. "Some people are losing their jobs, some are losing their businesses. So it's a big deal no matter where you live."
Previous OneNewsNow articles on this case