Atlanta fire chief punished for Bible study on sexuality

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

ATLANTA, Georgia (Christian Examiner) -- A year after self-publishing a collection of his men's Bible study lessons into the book "Who told you that you were naked," Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran was issued a one-month suspension without pay and required to participate in sensitivity training.

Cochran's book reportedly unpacks the subject of men's sexuality within the context of the Bible's teachings and is under fire for its disapproving language of homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. In it Cochran, a Baptist deacon, identifies himself as a devout Christian and the city's fire chief.

"When men are unrestrained in their quest for sex outside of God's purpose they will never be fulfilled," Cochran wrote in his book which also claims God's design for sex is specifically procreation and marital pleasure.

According to Atlanta's 2 news, Chochran said his job as "fire chief of Atlanta's Fire Rescue Department is to cultivate its culture for the glory of God."

But anti-gay language in which he called homosexuality the "the opposite of purity" and a form of "sexual perversion" sparked controversy among LBGT activists and led to an investigation that resulted in Cochran's suspension. The city specifically sought information about the circumstances in which workers received copies of the book.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that city officials were unaware Chochran published the content until a number of employees, who claimed they obtained copies at work, made a complaint just before Thanksgiving.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he "profoundly disagreed" with the fire chief's printed opinions and forbid Chocran from further distributing the book on city property.

"[I] am deeply disturbed by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community. I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration," Reed said in a Nov. 24 statement.

Reed has also stated that Cochran's book is not his personal belief, and is "inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens -- regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."

Cochran told Atlanta's WSB-TV that he planned to tell his side of the story following his suspension.

Prior to his role as Atlanta's fire chief, Cochran was the fire chief in Shreveport, Louisiana, from 1999 until 2008, when he became the fire chief for Atlanta. Just a year into his his time there, Cochran was named FEMA's U.S. Fire Administrator by President Obama. In May 2010, he returned to Atlanta. During Cochran's 30-day absence, Deputy Chief Joel Baker wil serve as acting fire chief.