A Win for the First Amendment

October 25, 2018

by John McClaughry

In a major victory for free speech, the city of Atlanta has awarded former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran $1.2 million for violating his First Amendment rights.

Cochran was a highly decorated Atlanta firefighter who President Obama appointed as  the U.S. Fire Administrator. In 2010, Cochran agreed to return as Atlanta fire chief at the invitation of Mayor Kasim Reed. (Both Reed and Cochran are black.)

But in 2015 Reed suspended him without pay for 30 days, when the Mayor learned that Cochran had written and self-published— on his own time – a Christian devotional that included a few paragraphs on the biblical view on sex and marriage. Mayor Reed construed Cochran’s belief that marriage is between one man and one woman as discriminatory and ordered him to attend “sensitivity training.” Soon after that Reed, totally without evidence, fired Cochran for practicing discrimination.

Cochran brought suit for unfair dismissal because of his views. Last December, a federal district court ruled that the city’s treatment of Cochran had violated his constitutional right to free speech. The court affirmed that the city cannot police non-work speech, nor can it target views with which it does not agree.

Earlier this month the city council awarded $1.2 million in damages and legal fees to Cochran and his attorneys.

Kelvin Cochran’s perseverance and brave example, and his vindication in court, have made his case a valuable precedent – not only for employees with conservative beliefs fired by leftist employers, but also for leftists who hold diametrically opposite beliefs, and are fired by conservative employers.

Older Vermonters will recall the 1971 dismissal by the UVM Board of radical non-tenured professor Michael Parenti, although Parenti was using his teaching position to radicalize his students, and was convicted of assaulting a cop at a radical protest in Illinois the previous year. This will not be found on Parenti’s Wikipedia page.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Deanne October 27, 2018 at 1:39 am

Hmmm…. Interesting how that played out…

Anything goes, except old-fashioned, biblical morals.

I wonder if Obama would have honored Cochran if he had known more about him.

It sounds like we need a lot more people like him around.

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