Dr. Michael Brown
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Michael Brown writes: Another Major Victory for Religious Freedom in America. I wrote about the economic logic of this settlement this morning. No sense repeating myself but this was all about dollars and cents given the favorable rulings that the judge delivered to Atlanta in December.

According to Brown:

On Jan. 9, 2015, I wrote an article titled, “The Mayor of Atlanta Declares War on Religious Freedom.” Now, more than three and a half years later, sanity has prevailed and religious freedoms have been preserved. Atlanta must pay up.

The original lawsuit demanded that Atlanta change certain policies and reinstate Cochran. Neither of those things have occurred. Cochran has been paid off to get rid of the matter as inexpensively as possible; possibly within the limits of the city’s litigation insurance.

If there is a major victory here it is for the three law firms that represented Cochran, including Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT hate group. They are going to get a big chunk of that $1.2 million settlement. How much is unknown but the settlement specifically includes legal fees.

If, as Brown states, “sanity has prevailed” it is fiscal mental hygiene. What Brown should do is to file a FOIA request in order to determine how much the city has already paid in legal fees. That may be revealed in the transcript of a city council meeting.

Not surprisingly, Brown misrepresents the facts of this case:

What was his crime?

On his own time and on his own dime, he dared to write a book which contained a few lines—yes, just a few lines—speaking against homosexual practice. (And note that he spoke against other sexual sins as well, based on Scripture.)


To add insult to the injury and madness to the circus, Mayor Kasim Reed then explained that Cochran was fired because, “We will not discriminate on the basis of race or gender or religion or creed or sexual orientation or physical ability or gender identity.”

This is a line to make George Orwell proud: “Because we will not discriminate based on religion, we are firing you because of your religious beliefs.”

Cochran was not fired for his religious beliefs. He was fired for his conduct. Cochran distributed about two dozen copies of his book to fire department employees. Some of those recipients did not request a copy. Some were offended by the anti-gay rhetoric. That in itself was grounds for termination. It also called into question Cochran’s ability to properly recruit, train and supervise a diverse workforce, According to Cochran, some of those people were “perverts” (in his own words).

Cochran’s religious beliefs were only scrutinized because he tried to foist them on people who reported to him. He displayed terrible judgment.

Mr. Brown should think about a Muslim department head in his city. Suppose that individual handed out copies of his book, Essays on Islamic Law. Let us further suppose that those essays contained inflammatory anti-Christian and anti-Semitic sentiments. One more supposition: Let us assume that, like Cochran, his employment was in accordance with the “at-will” doctrine. Would Dr. Brown have championed the Muslim’s victimization when he was discharged for cause? Would Brown assert that the Muslim’s religious freedom was violated?

Brown continues:

Thankfully, sanity has prevailed and religious liberty has been preserved. As the Daily Wire reported, “Atlanta To Pay Out $1.2 Million To Christian Fire Chief After Violating His First Amendment Rights.”

I have not seen the settlement. To the best of my knowledge it is without an admission of having done anything improper. To assign the settlement to a violation of Cochran’s First Amendment rights is inaccurate. This is about stopping a money drain. To win this case, the city would probably spend more money in legal fees than the amount of the settlement.

That is because ADF does not have a paying client controlling the expenses. When ADF loses they always appeal, up to the Supreme Court if necessary. This saga had the potential to go on for another five years.

Brown has a legitimate PhD which required substantial intellectual curiosity. He should have used some of that to explore the docket and to consider the economic logic. He was too busy celebrating a victim who has become a religious hero for no reason other than causing his prior employer to spend a great deal of money in litigation.

As an aside I used to have a principle of never settling when my employer was in the right. As the chief operating officer of a company I found myself at the labor board with our labor lawyer. The conference went on and on and I refused to settle. Finally my lawyer turned to me and whispered in my ear: “You are going to settle this or I am walking out of this fucking conference.” He was right in that I was being obstinate. Aside from the circumstances I was angry that I had to travel to lower Manhattan and spend hours on something that was nonproductive. I was only wasting more time.

The case involved a minority male terminated for cause while he was still a probationary employee. He was replaced by a woman, a member of the same minority group. The department head was an exceptionally talented manager who properly documented everything. Yet somehow this former employee claimed that he was discriminated against. This case reinforced two conclusions that also apply to the Cochran matter:

  1. It is part of the basic fabric of American society that no one is ever at fault when they get fired or demoted and;
  2. Sometimes is is much better to settle a matter even when you have done nothing wrong.

Dr. Michael Brown is an academic. He might not grasp any of that.

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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.