A court ruled against former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, a Christian who self-published a book in which he criticized homosexuality and other sins, but also ruled against the city on a related issue.
Cochran said he gave copies of his book to co-workers who asked for them, but Mayor Kasim Reed considered his actions insubordinate. He suspended Cochran for 30 days and eventually fired him.
Cochran believes he was fired because of the content of his book, which the mayor denied. The city found that Cochran hadn’t discriminated against anyone.
Despite this, a federal court contended that his firing was justified.
In a 50-page ruling, the court found that Cochran’s book, while written on his own time, was disseminated by a supervisor at the workplace. According to the decision, Cochran’s status as fire chief made it “not unreasonable for the city to fear” his views might cause “public erosion of trust in the fire department.”
Cochran complied with the city’s requirement that government employees seek permission before publishing books. But Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Cochran’s legal counsel, contended that the requirement is unconstitutional.
The same court that justified Cochran’s termination agreed with the ADF (emphasis added) about the requirement:
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.
With regard to the city’s “pre-clearance” rules, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia wrote in its decision in Cochran v. City of Atlanta, “This policy would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing. It is unclear to the Court how such an outside employment would ever affect the City’s ability to function, and the City provides no evidence to justify it…. The potential for stifled speech far outweighs an unsupported assertion of harm.”
The court added that provisions within the rules “do not set out objective standards for the supervisor to employ.” “This does not pass constitutional muster,” the court concluded.