Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran Fired for Religious Views
Update: Dr. Al Mohler makes the same argument as below, saying
We are now witnessing a direct and unavoidable collision between religious liberty with what is rightly defined as erotic liberty — a liberty claimed on the basis of sexual identity and activity. Religious liberty is officially recognized in the Bill of Rights — even in the very first amendment — and the framers of the American order did not claim to have established this right to free religious expression, but to have recognized it as a pre-existent right basic to citizenship.
Erotic liberty is new on the scene, but it is central to the moral project of modernity — a project that asserts erotic liberty, which the framers never imagined, as an even more fundamental liberty than freedom of religion.
FoxNews broke the story of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was recently fired after he wrote a book on Biblical morality for his men’s group at church — which had a half-page on homosexuality some activists found offensive.
Despite the fact only the expression of his beliefs got him fired, Atlanta council member Alex Wan — who is homosexual — said he
support[ed] Cochran’s termination and said it “sends a strong message to employees about how much we value diversity and how we adhere to a non-discriminatory environment.”
So, a person who was not discriminating against anyone was discriminated against in order to provide a non-discriminatory environment? One wonders if councilman Wan knows what the word “discrimination” really means.
Georgia Equality, a homosexual activist group, also supported firing Chief Cochran because of the potential of a “hostile work environment”:
Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham told GA Voice Cochran’s “anti-gay” views could result in a hostile work environment.
“This is not about his religious views but his about his ability to lead a diverse work force,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that this had to happen. I feel the mayor has done the right thing to ensure all employees are treated fairly.”
So a person who does nothing more than hold and express certain religious beliefs could possibly create a hostile work environment. What about the hostile work environment that was created by firing someone for nothing more than their beliefs? How do you think the other Christians in the Atlanta fire department feel about their work environment right now, knowing they could be fired simply because of their mainstream Christian beliefs?
Supporters of his termination have quibbled, saying Chief Cochran was fired over “judgment,” or whether he was technically given permission to write a book. It is quite clear, however, that the entire focus of the incident has been his writing on homosexuality (which amounted to a few lines in a 160-page book) and nothing more. After all, the Mayor went on record denouncing his views on homosexuality shortly after the book came out:
I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.
I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the Administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens — regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs.
Note the Mayor didn’t go on record denouncing him writing a book without permission. Also note that he implied he would take action to prevent “discrimination…within my administration,” despite the fact that believing, expressing, and writing one’s beliefs is not discrimination, by any definition. Again with the “discrimination” thing.
The fact that someone could be fired because of what they believe, regardless of their actual conduct, even inspired a few atheists to begrudgingly acknowledge the city was probably on the wrong side of liberty.
This argument against Christians may sound like a one-off in the city of Atlanta, but its actually been used by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein in his attacks on religious freedom in the military for some time. Weinstein’s organization makes a similar claim: A person who has a religious faith that includes the tenet that homosexuality is a sin should not be allowed to serve in the US military.
Just like council member Wan, one of the scenarios Weinstein uses is akin to the “hostile work environment.” That is, since a homosexual subordinate would, without question in Weinstein’s mind, feel uncomfortable approaching a superior who disagreed with the moral acceptance of homosexuality, a military officer of that faith would create a de facto “hostile work environment.” Thus, a person with those religious beliefs would be “unable to lead a diverse work force” — a conclusion reached only because of the religious beliefs they hold, not because of their conduct — because their mere presence would be detrimental to good order and discipline.
Thus, Weinstein would claim people of traditional religious faiths should be kicked out of the US military — not because of their religious beliefs, of course, because that would be illegal. Instead, they should be discharged because of their negative impact on “good order and discipline” — not unlike Cochran being fired for “judgment,” not his views on homosexuality. See how that works?
Of course, Weinstein never asks the reverse question: What about a Christian subordinate who has a superior who has expressed the belief that people who don’t support homosexuality are “bigots?”
Unlike Weinstein’s hypothetical, the latter scenario has actually happened in the US military — and Weinstein came out on the side of sexuality rather than religion. It’s interesting that Weinstein — a self-declared advocate for religious freedom — seems more concerned about the sexual freedom of less than 5% of the US military over the religious liberty of, by some counts, more than 70% of the military.
One solution, of course, would be to ban from military service all Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others whose religious tenets are in opposition to homosexuality — and also ban homosexuals, since both groups would make each other “uncomfortable,” in Weinstein’s eyes.
Of course, there would still have to be some discussion, since the government is prohibited in the US Constitution from interfering with the exercise of religion — and telling US troops they couldn’t be hold certain religious beliefs might run counter to that founding document.
Notably, there is no constitutional right to sexual liberty.
Then again, some in government think constitutionally-protected religious liberty is overruled by non-constitutionally protected sexual liberty, and it would seem the city of Atlanta does, as well.
The Georgia Baptist Convention has started a petition, currently at about 8,700 signatures,
calling on the Christian community to “stand up for biblical principles and fellow believers who are punished or marginalized for their faith.”
The petition calls for the Mayor to acknowledge Chief Cochran’s Constitutional rights, apologize, and reinstate him.
There is a tension in American society between sexuality and faith, freedom and offense. Given the clearly discriminatory — yet potentially socially acceptable — conduct of the city of Atlanta, it will be interesting to see how this incident unfolds.
Also at the Religion Clause.