The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religion for all Americans, regardless of belief, and you have publicly advocated for making Atlanta “a more welcoming city for all of her citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs.” In light of this, your decision to terminate Atlanta's distinguished Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran — a public servant with more than three decades of experience who has served President Obama as U.S. Fire Administrator and was unanimously confirmed as Atlanta’s fire chief —constitutes the absolute height of hypocrisy.
Chief Cochran, exercising his legally protected rights, expressed his religious convictions in his recent book. He even cleared its contents with your own Ethics Office Director. Despite this, you chose to fire him simply because you disagree with his religious beliefs. This action is not only un-American, it constitutes intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination.
We live in a rich, diverse society. A society with differing viewpoints and beliefs, a society of open discourse in which tolerance and inclusion makes it possible for us to disagree with respect. We also live in a society that values equality, including the notion that everyone has the right to publicly express deeply held beliefs without fear of persecution or reprisal. People of faith – who are a significant part of America’s rich rainbow of diversity – share the same fundamental rights as all other groups.
Chief Cochran and the citizens of Atlanta should all have the right to equal application of equal protections under the law. If one group is protected for its beliefs, all groups must be protected.
By signing this petition, I join my fellow citizens in a united call for tolerance, fairness, and equality for all.
I am asking you to:
- Immediately reinstate Chief Cochran.
- Apologize for your unjust actions against Chief Cochran.
- Ensure that no person of faith in Atlanta will be singled out by your administration simply due to the expression of their religious convictions.
As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a holiday honoring an Atlanta native who bravely stood for equality and civil rights, I call on you to respect and honor his legacy. As Dr. King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”