Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran has been suspended without pay for one month and will be forced to undergo sensitivity training after espousing his Christian beliefs in a religious book.
Earlier this week, City officials said Cochran had violated policy by self-publishing a book last year about his Christian values without their knowledge and then handing it out to employees. In the book titled Who Told You That You Are Naked? he calls homosexuality "sexual perversion" and likens it to "bestiality" which one city spokeswoman described as "alarming."
"One of the most alarming things is that we did not know about the book when it was published," said city spokeswoman Anne Torres. "We understand that he was distributing the book to other employees. We are still not sure what the circumstances surrounding them are."
Cochran, who first served as fire chief in 2008, began the month-long suspension this week and city officials are said to be considering further disciplinary action.
Atlanta employees reportedly complained about his book to Mayor Kasim Reed last week and in a statement he condemned the Fire Chief for openly expressing his traditional views.
"I was surprised and disappointed to learn of this book on Friday. I profoundly disagree with and 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 statement. "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs."
The book's title is taken from Genesis 3:11 in which God asks Adam and Eve about their decision to eat from the forbidden tree.
The scripture reads: "Who told you that you were naked?" the LORD God asked. "Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?"
Critics slammed Reed's decision to suspend Cochran, with some calling it Christian persecution. Others sought out to purchase the book in a bid to showcase support.
In a recent article conservative writer Erick Erickson of redstate.com, said Cochran, like many other Evangelical Christians, is under attack by the "gay mafia." He also urged Christians to showcase support for the Fire Chief, who he described as being a "role model," by buying the book and sending copies to Reed.
In 2009 Obama appointed Cochran as the U.S. fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration. He returned to his job as Atlanta's Fire Chief the following year.
Chief Cochran could not be reached for comment.