Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was terminated from his position after writing a devotional book in his off-time which briefly discusses Biblical views on sex and marriage.
After a December 2017 ruling found that the city discriminated against Mr. Cochran and violated his First Amendment rights by firing him for expressing Christian views with which they disagree, the city council on Monday agreed to pay out $1.2 million to the former chief for damages and attorneys' fees, reports Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization which represented Mr. Cochran.
"The government can’t force its employees to get its permission before they engage in free speech. It also can’t fire them for exercising that First Amendment freedom, causing them to lose both their freedom and their livelihoods," said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.
Theriot said he hopes the pay-out "will serve as a deterrent to any government that would trample upon the constitutionally protected freedoms of its public servants."
Cochran was suspended for 30 days without pay and told he had to attend "sensitivity training" by the city after writing the 162-page devotional book guiding men on how to be better fathers and husbands. Though an internal investigation from the city revealed that Cochran never discriminated against anyone, he was still terminated from his post.
Speaking to ADF, Cochran discussed how the accusations of discrimination by the city were particularly hurtful, since he recalls having to use a separate bed and kitchen utensils when he first started in the fire house because he was black.