Capitol Hill lawmakers hear Chief Cochran’s story
A fired Atlanta police chief has encouraged a U.S. House panel to move forward to protect religious liberty – and he stands as an example of the need for passage of the bill.
The First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802) is designed to protect religious freedom, and that would include that of fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. Cochran testified on Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he experienced discrimination in another form when he became one of the first black firefighters in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“There were designated plates, spoons, and forks for the black firefighters,” he shared. “In one fire station, I had to wash the dishes in scalding hot water – and the captain stood by to make sure that the water was hot enough to get rid of the germs.”
He also testified there were designated beds for black firefighters so whites wouldn’t have to come in contact with beds that had been occupied by blacks.
Cochran rose through the ranks to become Atlanta’s fire chief in 2008. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the U.S. fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration – effectively becoming the nation’s fire chief. He returned to Atlanta in 2010 where, a few years later, he was fired for a self-published book on sin that happened to mention homosexuality. He was suspended and investigated.
“Consequently, after concluding its investigation, the city determined that I had never discriminated against anyone, including members of the LGBT community,” he told the panel. “Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, on January the 6th, 2015, I was terminated from employment from the city of Atlanta.”
Democrats on the panel seemed to be concerned that guaranteeing religious freedom would lead to discrimination against homosexuals.
A companion bill – S. 1598 – has been introduced in the Senate.