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Supreme Court of the United States

For Chief Cochran, His Faith Is More Important than His Dream Career

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
November 16, 2017

If you would have asked a young Kelvin Cochran what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would have said, “a firefighter.” Though the former Atlanta fire chief has realized his childhood dream by serving as a firefighter for over 30 years, he’s had his share of ups and downs.

Early in his career, Chief Cochran experienced racism in the fire department. He was given a designated bed and designated dishes in the firehouse so no one had to share with the “black firefighter.” But it was because of that hardship that he has been dedicated to promoting a work environment without any racism, sexism, cronyism, or any other “isms.”

And he did so successfully. In fact, there were no complaints of discrimination under Chief Cochran’s leadership in Atlanta. An investigation proved that.

Yet in 2015, he was fired by the City of Atlanta, simply because he wrote a men’s devotional in his personal time that mentioned his belief that sex is intended for marriage between one man and one woman. Alliance Defending Freedom is challenging Atlanta’s actions in court tomorrow.

Chief Cochran was fired for his faith, even though he has a record of excellence as a firefighter.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Chief Cochran to fill the highest position a firefighter can reach in his career – the U.S. Fire Administrator. He served in that position until the Atlanta mayor begged him to come back and serve as the fire chief there in 2010.

But his childhood dream came to a halt in 2015.

Because Chief Cochran holds a belief about marriage that is unpopular with the Atlanta government, they made it clear that he was no longer welcome. They suspended him without pay for 30 days and ordered that he participate in “sensitivity training.” They launched an investigation into his conduct. And even though the investigation showed that he had never discriminated against anyone, he was fired at the end of the 30-day suspension.

If the government can punish a distinguished firefighter – a presidential appointee – for living consistently with his faith, what’s stopping them from punishing any one of us?

He could mourn over the loss of his career. He could retreat. Instead, he is standing for his rights and the rights of others who simply wish to live according to their faith without fearing government punishment.

To him, it’s a greater honor to serve God than to serve as fire chief.


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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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