The City of Atlanta will pay its former fire chief $1.2 million for the unconstitutional city policies that resulted in his termination.
Kelvin Cochran, a decorated firefighter with a distinguished track record of 30 years of service, was forced to step down from his position as Atlanta fire chief in 2015 after he wrote a book for a men’s Bible study. Cochran, a Christian, had included a section about biblical principles on marriage and sexuality, specifically stating that marriage is between a man and a woman before God.
This portion of the book was deemed discriminatory. Cochran was suspended for 30 days and forced to complete a “sensitivity training.”
After an investigation into his decades-long tenure in the Fire Department, the city determined that he had not discriminated against anyone, but he was fired nonetheless. Cochran, who is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, sued the city for its policies that discriminated against his Christian beliefs.
In December 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled in favor of Cochran and determined that the city’s policies were unconstitutional.
“This policy would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing,” the decision states. “It is unclear to the Court how such an outside employment would ever affect the City’s ability to function, and the City provides no evidence to justify it . . . The potential for stifled speech far outweighs an unsupported assertion of harm.”
On Monday, the City of Atlanta agreed to pay Cochran $1.2 million in damages and attorney’s fees.
“The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before they engage in free speech. It also can’t fire them for exercising that First Amendment freedom, causing them to lose both their freedom and their livelihoods,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in a press release, according to CBN News. “We are very pleased that the city is compensating Chief Cochran as it should, and we hope this will serve as a deterrent to any government that would trample upon the constitutionally protected freedoms of its public servants.”