Former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran who was fired from his job last year after the city took offense to a book he wrote on his Christian faith promoting biblical marriage is set to fight for justice in a trial that could start this summer.
An official in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Georgia told The Christian Post Tuesday that Cochran's case against the city is in the discovery phase which should be complete by May 31.
Bob Trent, media relations director for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian nonprofit representing Cochran in the case, said he expects a trial date to be set for this summer.
"The trial should occur in late summer but no date has been set," he noted in an email Tuesday.
According to the ADF, the city and mayor of Atlanta terminated Cochran's employment because of his Christian faith and beliefs. Mayor Kasim Reed first suspended Cochran for 30 days and announced that he would have to complete "sensitivity training" after activists who don't agree with the fire chief's Christian views on sex complained about the men's devotional book Cochran had written on his personal time.
The 162-page book, titled Who Told You That You Were Naked?, briefly addresses biblical sexual morality.
Despite an investigation, that included interviews with employees, finding that Cochran did not discriminate against anyone, he was fired by the mayor who cited a need for tolerance.
A federal court ruled in December that the ADF lawsuit filed on Cochran's behalf would go forward and hear Cochran's primary claims of retaliation, discrimination based on his viewpoint, and the violation of his constitutionally protected freedoms of religion, association, and due process (firing without following proper procedure), according to the ADF.
"A religious or ideological test cannot be used to fire a public servant, but the city did exactly that, as the evidence and facts of this case clearly demonstrate," said ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot, who argued the case before the court. "We look forward to proceeding with this case because of the injustice against Chief Cochran, one of the most accomplished fire chiefs in the nation, but also because the city's actions place every city employee in jeopardy who may hold to a belief that city officials don't like."
In a Fox News interview Monday, David Cortman, a senior counsel with ADF, says the city of Atlanta was interfering with the First Amendment.
"I think what they are trying to say is that no citizen has a right to free speech about their own faith outside of work time unless they get permission from the government first. And the only permission slip that the chief needs is the First Amendment," he said.
"In our Constitution, Americans are guaranteed the freedoms to express their thoughts and beliefs without fear of any adverse consequences. I was raised on those beliefs and values and they are guaranteed in our Constitution," he said. "It speaks to the whole issue of tolerance and in the United States of America, free speech and freedom of religion is a right to all Americans and tolerance is a two way street and it's respecting the beliefs of all Americans and that's what I stood by."
Cortman also warned that Cochran's case is a very important case for all Americans.
"The court already denied the city's motion to kick the case out of court and the reason that was a proper decision is the First Amendment is all that's needed here. Imagine a government that can tell you 1. You cannot speak about your own faith outside of work time and if you do, they have the authority to punish you by ending your stellar career. I mean that type of a government with that type of authority should be of concern to everyone, regardless of your views on this or any other issues," he said.
Cochran added: "I want to be vindicated from the injustice that was committed against me by the city of Atlanta. No American should have to be forced to make a choice between living out their faith and keeping their job."