“Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are under attack!” was the motto of protestors rallying outside the Georgia state capitol this week.
The protestors, who are being lead by the Family Research Council, are upset over the recent termination of Atlanta’s homophobic fire chief Kelvin Cochran.
Cochran was let go from his job with the city after it was discovered he had self-published an e-book called Who Told You That You Were Naked, in which he refers to homosexuality as unclean, inappropriate, vile, and vulgar.
This week, the FRC and its devout Christian followers delivered a petition with nearly 40,000 signatures to city hall in support of Cochran.
“The naked truth is that the actions taken against the chief are designed to send a message that will silence Christians and in effect force them to check their faith at the door of public service,” Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, said.
Cochran himself made an appearance at the rally. In a rousing speech, he denied accusations that his religious beliefs created a hostile work environment, as some have claimed, and said that no member of the LGBT community was discriminated against under his watch.
“There are grave consequences for publicly expressing our faith,” he told the crowd, “and having the audacity to believe that sex was created for procreation and should be in the bonds of holy matrimony between a man and a woman.”
“All people, groups are welcomed and embraced in the city of Atlanta,” he continued, “except the groups that believe the scripture regarding God’s purpose for sex.”
But city officials insist Cochran’s termination has nothing to do with his religious beliefs.
“The city’s nondiscrimination policy is nonnegotiable,” mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “Neither race, nor gender, nor religion, nor creed, nor sexual orientation, nor physical ability, nor gender identity will be used to discriminate against any city of Atlanta employee.”
Reed has explained multiple times that the city requires all employees to first seek permission and obtain approval before publishing a book, which he says Cochran never did. Reed also claims the way in which Cochran handled the situation (i.e. rallying on the steps of the state capitol with one of the most notorious antigay groups in America) has demonstrated an “irreconcilable lapse in judgment.”
“His actions around the book, his statements during the investigation, eroded my confidence,” Reed said.
Of course, Cochran isn’t buying the mayor’s excuses.
“One thing we should not have to sacrifice are the freedoms inherit in our great nation,” Cochran told the crowd this week, “Free speech and freedom of religion.”