According to media, Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, a former US Fire Administrator, has been terminated for lack of judgment in publishing and disseminating a book which compares homosexuality to bestiality and pederasty and for giving it to employees, some of whom complained.
Cochran and others, including the Georgia Baptist Convention, charge that his religious freedom has been denied.
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has said that we are a “nation of laws” and therein lies Kelvin’s conundrum.
There are laws respecting freedom of speech and religion and there are also laws respecting civil rights and equality in the workplace.
Many rights and laws are “proximal.” Â They apply to our persons and often to our domain but when we want to extend them publicly we run afoul of equally important laws and rights designed to ensure comity and respect in the community.
What seems grand at home often gets a rocky reception on the road.
Citizen Cochran is on very solid ground respecting his choice to adopt and observe religious (and other) personal viewpoints of whatever stripe.
He is even free to proselytize, winning converts to his heart’s content.
Cochran is also free to compete for and accept employment in any venue where he is deemed qualified, but all employment, perhaps especially in the public sector, comes with strings attached.
If you are the leader of a public agency and the governing body of the polity has extended equal employment protection to classes of religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and you make comments widely viewed as intemperate regarding these classes, your judgement, if not your job, may be in doubt.
Â Power and Intolerance
If you are “of the masses” and you express your sectarian views at work you may be just fine as you enjoy no superior position over those you bore.
If, however, you enjoy a position of power, your words carry not just their apparent meaning but great weight as well, because you have the power to effect lives.
It’s doubtful that Chief Kelvin didn’t know this basic maxim; rather, he is on a mission to the glory of god where earthly concepts of civil equality whither in the light of holy radiance.
By far the worst aspect of Cochran’s religiously based intolerance of homosexuality is that blacks are disproportionately ravaged by the HIV epidemic and black churches and their leaders are part of the problem.
In fact, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said, “As we make efforts to address the HIV crisis, the Black Church should not be a place where people experience HIV stigma and discrimination, but rather a place of healing, support, and acceptance.â€
The Atlanta Journal Constitution says, “he describes homosexuality as a â€œsexual perversionâ€ akin to bestiality and pederasty.
Cochran’s comments are stigmatic rhetoric that kills by inspiring shame and ignorance.
If Kelvin is a “Daniel in the Den” let’s just hope those lions are more tolerant than he is.
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