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If Firing Atlanta’s Fire Chief Isn’t a Religious Liberty Case, Then Nothing Is

  • Alex Crain What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • Updated Jan 16, 2015

Today's lead editorial in The New York Times came out in strong support of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for firing the city's Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran. Cochran, as you may know was fired recently for having “antigay views.” Christian author and professor, Denny Burk, took issue with the NYT editorial on his blog, arguing that if the Atlanta Fire Chief’s termination isn’t a religious liberty case, then nothing is.

Extensive details about this curious case of termination are easy to find elsewhere. For instance, see this article, click the related links throughout this post, and view Chief Cochran’s own statement here. While it's important to be informed about the details this monumental event, it's just as important to know how to think clearly about it. Chief Cochran’s firing sets an alarming precedent that may have far-reaching implications for Christians throughout America. Follow the logic of Dr. Burk’s argument and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

Burk contends:

“The Times editorial acknowledges the fact that the Mayor’s own investigation turned up no evidence of discrimination against LGBT people on the Chief’s part. The Chief treated all his employees fairly, regardless of their sexuality. Nevertheless, the editorial says something quite stunning:

‘It should not matter that the investigation found no evidence that Mr. Cochran had mistreated gays or lesbians. His position as a high-level public servant makes his remarks especially problematic, and requires that he be held to a different standard.’

Burk continues:

“Did you get that? The editors at The New York Times think that it doesn’t matter that Chief Cochran treated all of his employees well. His views are so toxic that he has to be ‘held to a different standard’—apparently a standard that punishes city employees for their religious views.”

“Chief Cochran’s book… [contains] …a passing reference to what Christians have always believed about homosexuality. There’s no evidence the Chief shared his book to make a statement about homosexuality. Nor is there any evidence that he mistreated any of his employees. Nevertheless, the editors at The New York Times are treating him like Jim Crow.”

In other words, the Atlanta Mayor's decision to terminate Chief Cochran means that simply believing your Bible amounts to discrimination now. And heaven help you if you hold a public position. Your free exercise of religion will simply not be tolerated.

Your turn: What are your thoughts on the termination of Kelvin Cochran? Do you disagree that this is a crucial moment for the fate of religious liberty in America? If you think it isn’t, share your reasons. 

Alex Crain is the editor of You can read more posts by Alex at his blog and follow him on Twitter @alex_crain.


Images credit: BGEA