Kelvin Cochran
Kelvin Cochran, dismissed Atlanta fire chief has now had his discrimination claims demolished by a federal judge but you wouldn’t know that
from the usual coterie of Christian supremacist organizations

The hate group leader I am referring to is Tim Wildmon of American Family Association. Yes, readers, he is probably full of crap and dumber than Roy Moore’s horse. I will elaborate in order for you to decide.

At issue is an email from Wildmon with the subject: “A victory today for the First Amendment.” Wildmon continues:

Many of you remember when Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired because of his religious views on marriage and homosexuality. In late 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed handed a pink slip to Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran purely on the grounds of Cochran’s faith.

Actually it had nothing to do with Cochran’s faith. He was terminated for creating an impermissible and toxic work environment within the department and for failing to get permission to publish the book that he distributed.

Eventually (Wildmon can be tediously verbose with Christianist boilerplate):

According to the law firm representing Chief Cochran, “A federal district court ruled Wednesday that city of Atlanta rules which led to the termination of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran are unconstitutional. The court found that the city’s policies restricting non-work speech, like a book for Christian men that Cochran wrote, are too broad and allow city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree.”

Through our supporters, the American Family Association garnered over 75,000 signatures in support of Chief Cochran. …

Alliance Defending Freedom, the source of the quote, is telling a partial truth, which is a lie. I will quote from the judge’s pre-trial ruling. The parties now have until January 20, 2018 to file with the court their intentions going forward. In other words ADF must identify on what grounds they intend to pursue the case, if the intend to pursue it at all. Cochran is the plaintiff in this action so the process is in ADF’s hands.

For starters, the City of Atlanta claimed that Cochran was an at-will employee and could be discharged without cause. The judge agrees, creating an almost insurmountable hurdle for ADF should they choose to proceed:

Defendant is correct under Georgia law. Because the Charter plainly states
that a department head may be removed with or without cause, Plaintiff does not
have a property interest in his employment. Plaintiff therefore cannot mount a
procedural due process claim. Defendants’ Motion is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s
Motion is DENIED on Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim.

Then we get to religious liberty, free speech and so on:

Defendants City of Atlanta, Georgia and Mayor Kasim Reed’s Motion for
Summary Judgment [105] is GRANTED as to Plaintiff’s claims of First
Amendment free speech retaliation; First Amendment freedom of association
retaliation; viewpoint discrimination; violation of the First Amendment right to
the free exercise of religion and the no religious tests clause of article VI, cl. 3 of
the Constitution; and, violation of Fourteenth Amendment procedural due
process but DENIED as to Plaintiff’s First Amendment prior restraint and
unbridled discretion claims.

In other words the judge has eliminated freedom of speech, freedom of association and free exercise of religion from Cochran’s complaint. This effectively denies these claims by Cochran. Restating the above (in other words, first the judge says “Atlanta, you win.” Now she says “Cochran, you lose.”):

Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [107] is DENIED as to
Plaintiff’s claims of First Amendment free speech retaliation; First Amendment
freedom of association retaliation; viewpoint discrimination; violation of the First
Amendment right to the free exercise …

The part that is remaining gives Cochran the right to sue limited to the claim that he was fired for publishing a book without permission. The Court determined that the provision is not constitutional. The City’s obvious defense is that, as the Court found, Cochran could be terminated without cause. Nevertheless, ADF (also a hate group) might just continue the process depending upon the donation calculus — Are they still generating donations off of this case? Furthermore, when they lose they could appeal.

Getting back to Mr. Wildmon, he might know all of this if he had intellectual curiosity greater than that of a garden snail. Obviously, the petition with 75,000 signatures was irrelevant.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.