Discrimination is a dangerous word to throw around. It is often hard to prove but is easy to condemn without evidence. Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was not fired because he discriminated against people. He was fired because he was discriminated against.
That is the way society is today. The anti-religious and anti-Christian movements have made cowards of officials and Chief Cochran is the latest well-publicized victim of this cowardice.
We do not approve of discrimination. Race, creed, sex, age, sexual preference, and religion are often cited as the hotspots of workplace discrimination and in all of those cases, we believe that in most circumstances there is no room for anyone to be denied a position or released from one due to their beliefs or background.
There are exceptions, particularly with non-profits and organizations that are designed to serve specific demographics. Few would make a fuss if CAIR declined interviewing an atheist who wanted to join their legal department, for example. In governmental and public service roles such as a fire department, discrimination is unacceptable. However, it’s definitely debatable whether publishing one’s religious views is, by itself, discrimination.
It should be noted that the findings of the investigation into Cochran’s professional activities were exceptionally clear that he had not discriminated against anyone as Chief. In fact, he initiated discipline against department personnel who took a picture in front of Chick-fil-A in support of the CEO’s stance against homosexuality:
He (Union President Steven Borders) cited to an example wherein firefighters were disciplined for expressing support of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s stance on homosexuality. In that case, during the height of the controversy, a squad of AFRD firefighters took a group picture showing them in uniform at one of Cathy’s restaurants. One of the firefighters then posted the picture on Facebook expressing support for Cathy’s religious beliefs and his opinion of homosexuality and gay marriage. When a citizen complained, Chief Cochran directed the captain of the squad to initiate an OPS complaint. The complaint was sustained for a work rule violation and the firefighters were given thirty day suspensions.
Regardless of the reason that the City of Atlanta gives for the firing, this comes down to discrimination. It’s not necessarily that anyone in the Mayor’s office believes that Cochran should be fired for his beliefs. They fired him because he wrote about it and distributed it. Authorized or not, the book created an environment that “appalled” some people. Unfortunately, being appalled by someone’s beliefs is not grounds for termination if those beliefs do not interfere with the workplace or the delivery of the service.
Chief Cochran should have been disciplined for not getting authorization to note his position, for starting a private enterprise in the form of book sales without getting permission, and for distributing the book to three people who did not ask for a copy. This discipline should have fallen well-short of termination.
At the end of the day, the Chief was fired for expressing his beliefs. Ask yourself this: had Cochran written a book saying that he was gay and this made some of his employees “appalled” by his beliefs, would there be any chance that he would get fired over it?