Rally Held to Support Ousted Atlanta Fire Chief

Demonstrators protest firing of Kelvin Cochran and join others in moments of prayer
CHERYL WETZSTEIN, The Washington Times Published Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hundreds of supporters of a fired fire chief in Atlanta gathered at city offices Tuesday to protest the termination and offer prayers for the nation and its leaders.

The Jan. 6 firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has roiled many because it was done after he self-published a book on biblical morality for men and shared it with some people at his job.

FRM/FFN: Ousted Atlanta Chief and Mayor Still at Odds

City officials received complaints about some passages in "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" that denounced homosexuality. They suspended and then fired Mr. Cochran, who is a deacon in his church and a devout Christian.

"We're here to say 'no' to discrimination of Christians in the workplace. We're here to say 'no' to bigotry against Christians in positions of leadership," Bishop Garland Hunt said at the Standing for Our Faith Rally, held in support of Mr. Cochran.

"But we're here to say 'yes' to our call to preach the Gospel to every nation, everywhere, every city - and that includes Atlanta, Georgia," Mr. Hunt said.

Numerous pastors, including the Rev. Alveda C. King, called for protection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the actions taken against Mr. Cochran were "designed to send a message that will silence Christians and in effect force them to check their faith at the door of public service."

Faith in God, however, is what prompts and sustains many people who agree to be first responders - like firefighters - and public servants who put their lives on the line, said Mr. Perkins, who noted that he once served in law enforcement.

After their rally, the marchers went to the Georgia State Capitol and turned in some 35,000 petitions asking that "all that was lost," including his job, be restored to Mr. Cochran.

An "overwhelmed and humbled" Mr. Cochran addressed the rally and led them in the Pledge of Allegiance and the "prophetic, faith-filled, patriotic words" that begin the U.S. Constitution.

Despite the "fiery trial," Mr. Cochran said he and his family were awaiting God's glory and the vindication of "my character and my family."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said he stands by his decision to fire Mr. Cochran, and the investigation leading to the firing is "closed."

"Let's stop trying to make this about religious freedom when it's about making sure that we have an environment in government where everyone, no matter who they love, can do their job without fear of being discriminated against," Mr. Reed said, according to WGCL-TV.

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign praised Mr. Reed and said the decision to fire Mr. Cochran was "right, fair and in the best interest of all Atlanta's residents."

A Democratic Georgia lawmaker and some clergy members also seized the day to hold a press conference against "religious freedom" bills now in the Georgia legislature. State Sen. Nan Orrock and her allies maintain that religious freedom will translate into discrimination in the workplace based on both sexual orientation and religion itself.

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Johnny Buice, retired Douglas County firefighter, left, attends a rally to support former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran following his termination at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed says Cochran's termination was based on his judgment and not anti-gay statements in his self-published religious book. Reed suspended then fired Cochran after learning of his self-published book in which he described homosexuality as a perversion. Reed said in a statement Tuesday that an investigative report shows Cochran didn't have clearance to publish the book he gave to several subordinates at work. Cochran has said he did get approval from city officials to publish the book. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Michael O'Hara, a retired Fulton County firefighter and currently a Coweta County paramedic, attends a rally to support former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran following his termination at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed says Cochran's termination was based on his judgment and not anti-gay statements in his self-published religious book. Reed suspended then fired Cochran after learning of his self-published book in which he described homosexuality as a perversion. Reed said in a statement Tuesday that an investigative report shows Cochran didn't have clearance to publish the book he gave to several subordinates at work. Cochran has said he did get approval from city officials to publish the book. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, third from right, observes a moment of prayer as religious groups rally to support him following his termination at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed says Cochran's termination was based on his judgment and not anti-gay statements in his self-published religious book. Reed suspended then fired Cochran after learning of his self-published book in which he described homosexuality as a perversion. Reed said in a statement Tuesday that an investigative report shows Cochran didn't have clearance to publish the book he gave to several subordinates at work. Cochran has said he did get approval from city officials to publish the book. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Demonstrators observe a moment of prayer at a rally to support former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran following his termination at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, in Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed says Cochran's termination was based on his judgment and not anti-gay statements in his self-published religious book. Reed suspended then fired Cochran after learning of his self-published book in which he described homosexuality as a perversion. Reed said in a statement Tuesday that an investigative report shows Cochran didn't have clearance to publish the book he gave to several subordinates at work. Cochran has said he did get approval from city officials to publish the book. (AP Photo/David Goldman)


Ousted Atlanta Chief and Mayor Still at Odds

Mayor claims termination is due to Cochran’s actions while suspended
KATIE LESLIE, The Atlanta Journal Constitution Published Friday, January 9, 2015

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, the author of a controversial book that some say promotes anti-gay sentiments and others defend as a valid expression of religious views, was dismissed from his job Tuesday, the same day he returned from a month-long suspension.

A clearly agitated Mayor Kasim Reed said he decided to terminate Cochran not just because the fire chief didn't consult him before publishing the 2013 book, but because Cochran spoke out about his suspension, despite being told to withhold public comment during an investigation into his leadership.

Reed said the firing had nothing to do with Cochran's faith: "His religious decisions are not the basis of the problem. His judgment is the basis of the problem."

Cochran, in his own press conference following Reed's fiery announcement, said he refused the option to retire Tuesday because he believes he has done nothing wrong.

Cochran, who served as Atlanta's fire chief under former mayor Shirley Franklin in 2008 and later as President Barack Obama's U.S. fire administrator, said the city's investigation failed to find evidence of discrimination.

"I am not apologetic for writing the book," he said. "I believe that, for Christian men to be all that God has called us to be, we have to overcome a stronghold of condemnation. Everything I wrote in the book is based on Scripture, not opinion."

Among the passages city leaders found troubling in Cochran's 162-page book "Who Told You That You Are Naked?" was a definition of "uncleanness" as: "whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion."

And, writing about sexual relationships, he said that "since God made sex for procreation, he only intended it to be between a man and a woman." Those who live without God's purpose, he wrote, "pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways."

Cochran, a deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church, said the book is a result of lesson plans he prepared for various men's Bible study groups and that he didn't intend to be "hurtful to anyone." He acknowledged distributing the book to some members of the fire department.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender "citizens deserve the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation, and deserve to be respected for their positions without hate and discrimination," he said. "But Christians also have the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation and be respected for their position without hate and without discrimination."

Reed said in November that such writings were inconsistent with the city's employment policies. While Cochran consulted the city's ethics officer before publishing the book, Reed said that Nina Hickson did not grant approval.

But Cochran has a differing account. He said he received verbal clearance from Hickson regarding the book, and therefore didn't believe he needed to consult Reed. What's more, Cochran said, he also gave a copy of the book to the mayor's office in January 2014, and the mayor later confirmed receiving it. A Reed spokeswoman said the mayor receives "hundreds" of books a year.

Hickson, for her part, said while she discussed the possibility of a book about "leadership" with Cochran, the issue never went to the ethics board, as required, for approval.

Cochran acknowledged speaking publicly about his suspension to religious groups, explaining that he was told by the administration not to speak to the media, specifically, about the matter.

The veteran firefighter has become a central figure in a brewing fight over religious liberty. Religious groups, including the Georgia Baptist Convention, have rallied around Cochran, decrying his punishment as an impingement on freedom of speech and religion.

Timothy Head --- executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a Duluth-based grass-roots conservative group launched by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed --- said he was disappointed in Cochran's dismissal.

"By no means do I think that any elected official or public servant should be able to impose their specific world view on employees in a professional workplace," Head said. "I don't think that's appropriate. I also don't think that is what was happening here."

Jeff Graham, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Georgia Equality, said while everyone is entitled to personal views, "it is very difficult when someone brings those views into the workplace in a way that really denigrates others. ... It was very troubling to think that he would lead a diverse workforce when he has been so public about his views equating gay people to beasts and being unclean."

Reed said he labored over terminating Cochran, who he said "added value" to his team. Indeed, under Cochran's watch, the fire department's public protection classification was raised to first in class, an indication that the city's response to fires improved.

Many in the public have contacted the mayor to express their support for Cochran. Reed said he's been inundated by thousands of angry emails and calls over the issue, even to his family.

Reed blamed the chief for the hostility he's endured.

"My faith in God does not take a backseat to anyone else's faith, and I deeply resent the emails and phone calls to my home and to my wife during the holidays when I'm spending time with my daughter, literally calling me the anti-Christ," Reed said. "So this is what Chief Cochran brought to my door because he made a judgment that he should write a book that contains material that is clearly inflammatory and never asked me how I felt about it."

Cochran did not say whether he plans to pursue legal action against the city, but said of his termination: "I believe there was plenty of objective evidence that should have exonerated me on all accounts."

Reed announced that Deputy Chief Joel Baker will serve as the interim fire chief.

BOOK CONTROVERSY

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran wrote "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" last year, a 162-page book aimed at Christian men. Cochran is a deacon in a large Atlanta-based Baptist church and regular participant in Christian education programs aimed at men.

Below are the passages from the book regarding homosexuality.

ON THE DEFINITION OF "UNCLEANNESS"

"uncleanness . . . (is) whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion."

ON THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF SEX

"since God made sex for procreation, he only intended it to be between a man and a woman." Those who live without God's purpose, he wrote, "pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways."

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Atlanta Fire Chief Fired Over Controversial Statements

Atlanta Fire Chief Suspended for Book Distribution

Fire Chief Kevin Cochran disciplined for book about homosexuality
ABBY OHLHEISER, Washington Post Blogs Published Friday, November 28, 2014

Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran started a month-long suspension without pay this week after some of his employees complained about the content of his self-published religious book. Among other things, the book calls "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" a "sexual perversion" morally equivalent to "pederasty" and "bestiality."

That book, city spokeswoman Anne Torres told Channel 2 in Atlanta, was distributed to some of Cochran's employees. "We understand that he was distributing the book to other employees. We are still not sure what the circumstances surrounding them are," Torres said. "The bottom line is that the [Mayor Kasim] Reed administration does not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

GA Voice reviewed a copy of the book and highlighted a couple passages.

In one, Cochran wrote: "Uncleanness - whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion."

In another section, Cochran wrote that "naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God."

The mayor's administration learned about the book after employees complained about it last week. The city is now investigating whether Cochran broke any city laws or discriminated against some employees in the city's fire department, according to a statement the mayor's office gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"I am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community," Reed said in a statement. In the future, Cochran will be prohibited from distributing the book on city property; he will also be required to undergo sensitivity training.

At least one local LGBT group has asked for Cochran's permanent removal from the force. "Frankly the only course of action at this point and time is his immediate and permanent dismissal," Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told WBAE. "It appears that his language is so extreme, so belittling of gay and transgender people that I don't see how he could possible [sic] lead a diverse workforce."

The Atlanta Professional Firefighters union said in a statement that it was "disappointed to discover how the Fire Chief chose to represent Atlanta Fire Rescue in his book," adding, "We applaud Mayor Reed for his quick decisive decision and look forward to working with the Mayor's of LBGT services to develop strategies to ensure equal treatment and rights for all."

The book in question,"Who Told You That You Were Naked," is available in paperback on Amazon.com.  [Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.]

The book's title is a line from Genesis - it's what God says to Adam and Eve as he figures out that the first humans ate from a forbidden tree. In the "about the author" section of the book, Cochran identifies himself as the Atlanta fire chief.

In the wake of Cochran's suspension, several of the fire chief's supporters and detractors have left reviews of the book on its Amazon page. "refreshing to see public figures openly state their beliefs. I stand behind you Chief Cochran !!! God Bless you and God Bless America !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" writes one reviewer. "Ignorant and hateful," says another.

Some wrote that they purchased the book specifically to support Cochran. "I bought this book because the author was suspended without pay from his 'regular' job for a month just for writing it," one person writes.

Although the mayor's decision to suspend Cochran seems to focus on Cochran's comments about LGBT people, along with complaints about the chief distributing materials to employees, Red State's Erick Erickson encouraged his readers to purchase Cochran's book, writing that the fire chief was facing suspension for "publicly professing Christian beliefs."

Cochran first served as Atlanta's fire chief in 2008. The next year, President Obama appointed him as the U.S. Fire Administrator for the United States Fire Administration. He returned to Atlanta, and his old job as the fire chief, in 2010.

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Supporters Rally around Injured Georgia Firefighters Three Georgia Firefighters Injured in Tower Ladder Failure Investigation Begins into Savannah Warehouse Fire

Savannah Warehouse Fire Fully Extinguished

Port of Savannah blaze consumed over 1,000 tons of crude rubber
Savannah firefighters use a ladder truck to battle a blaze in a warehouse at the Georgia Ports Authority Ocean Terminal, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Savannah, Ga. Burning rubber from the fire at the Port of Savannah sent up a towering column of black smoke that could be seen from miles away. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known, but all port workers were accounted for and unharmed. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Published Monday, February 10, 2014

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Port officials in Savannah, Ga., say a blaze that tore through a warehouse and sent plumes of black smoke into the sky has been fully extinguished.

FRM/FFN: Videos and Photos of Massive Warehouse Fire in Savannah

Savannah Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Mark Keller says firefighters worked overnight Saturday to prevent flare ups from developing into larger fires inside the damaged 226,000 square-foot warehouse at the Ocean Terminal. Officials say more than 1,000 tons of crude rubber was burned in the fire.

No injuries were reported and no one was in the warehouse when the fire started. The cause of the blaze is unclear and investigators had yet to get into the building as of Sunday morning.

The Environmental Protection Agency says air tests near the scene are well below health-based standards.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Massive Warehouse Burns in Savannah Port

    Fire in Port of Savannah warehouse is fueled by 5,600 tons of rubber
    Firefighters battle a blaze in a warehouse at the Georgia Ports Authority Ocean Terminal, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Savannah, Ga. Burning rubber from the fire at the Port of Savannah sent up a towering column of black smoke that could be seen from miles away. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known, but all port workers were accounted for and unharmed.(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
    Published Saturday, February 8, 2014

    SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Fire officials say a massive fire at the Port of Savannah in Georgia is contained but could take a while to burn out.

    Savannah Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Mark Keller says the fire fueled by 5,600 tons of rubber is contained, but there's no telling how long it will take to burn it out.

    He says firefighters were using industrial pumps to suck up river water and blast it through water cannons at the fire.

    Crews will continue soaking into the night and Sunday if necessary.

    A towering column of black smoke could be seen from miles away.

    The fire was burning inside a warehouse covering 226,000 square feet at the port's Ocean Terminal just west of downtown Savannah. All port workers were accounted for and unharmed.

    Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Various YouTube videos of Port of Savannah fire

     

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