Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran calls homosexuality “the opposite of clean,” compares it to bestiality and sexual perversion, and says it dishonors God in a religious book he wrote.
Mayor Kasim Reed on Monday suspended Cochran for a month without pay. (Update below)
The title of the 162-page paperback, “Who Told You That You Were Naked,” is taken from Genesis 3:11, which discusses excusing sin. Cochran published the book in November 2013 through 3G Publishing in Loganville. The book is described on Amazon as delving into profound questions:
This profound question, "Who told you that you were naked?, meant much more than, "Who told you that you do not have on clothes?" From God's perspective nakedness meant so much more. It meant condemnation and deprivation to his most precious creation-mankind. Though He reconciled Adam's condition by clothing him in coats of lambs' skin, Adam never got over what he had done. Condemnation has dominated ever since. Now we have a more permanent solution. We have been clothed with Christ! Redeemed men who carry the curse of condemnation and deprivation cannot fulfill their purpose as husbands, fathers, community and business leaders-world changers! Adam never gave God a straight answer. It's time to answer that question. WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED?
In the book, according to passages provided to Project Q, Cochran uses homosexuality to define “uncleanness”:
“Uncleanness – whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, and, all other forms of sexual perversion.”
Another passage discusses limiting sex to procreation:
“Sexual acts pursued for purposes other than procreation and marital pleasure in holy matrimony is the sex life of a naked man. When men are unrestrained in their quest for sex outside of God’s purpose they will never be fulfilled. Naked me refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which define their body-temple and dishonor God. This is the kind of sex that leaves a man continually empty–the ex life of a naked man. Who told you that you were naked?”
Cochran is a veteran firefighter who was chief of the Shreveport, La., fire department from 1999 until Atlanta hired him as chief in January 2008. He left for a time in July 2009 to serve as U.S. Fire Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. He returned to again helm the Atlanta department in May 2010 and was unanimously confirmed by the Atlanta City Council on Aug. 16, 2010.
In his book, Cochran describes himself as a “devout Christian man pursuing the life of a Psalm 112 man and the promises of Deuteronomy 28:1-14.”
“His greatest desire is to fulfill the purpose of God for his life and to be living proof of God’s exceeding great and precious promises.”
Cindy Thompson, a lesbian and retired 30-year veteran of the Atlanta Fire Department, said she finds the book’s overtly religious condemnations disturbing. She says that current firefighters have discussed their concerns over the book’s passages with her, but are afraid to criticize it over fears of retribution from Cochran and the department.
“He is the ultimate disciplinarian. He is supposed to be held to a higher standard than anybody,” Thompson says. “I can’t imagine if this was a book about any other protected group that it wouldn’t have already come out. He is awfully bold to do that, and he gave out at least one autographed copy to one of the chiefs. He doesn’t get that it is not within the thinking of Atlanta and its citizens.”
Thompson, who planned on meeting with city officials on Monday to discuss her concerns about the book, said current LGBT firefighters are upset over its anti-gay passages.
“This has shocked them and they don’t want to start something, but they obviously want it to be known,” Thompson said.
Atlanta recently received a perfect score on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, which ranks cities across the country on their approach to LGBT equality. Mayor Kasim Reed lauded the ranking as proof that the city “works to recognize and protect the dignity of all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Fire Department referred questions about Cochran’s book to Reed’s office. The mayor’s communications director, Anne Torres, asked that questions be emailed to her. We’ll update the post when we hear back.
UPDATE | Reed's office, in a statement, says the situation is under review.
"The Reed Administration was not notified of the book before it was published. The Reed Administration will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. In fact, the City of Atlanta has a number of laws that prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, and sex. The Reed Administration is currently conducting a review of the facts surrounding the book. If disciplinary action is recommended as a result of the investigation, we will take decisive action to prevent any inappropriate behavior from occurring in the future."
UPDATE II | City Council member Alex Wan, who is gay, says he is "deeply disturbed" by the statement in Cochran's book and has spoken with city officials, including Reed and Human Resources Commissioner Yvonne Cowser Yancy, about it. "I’m personally disappointd and offended in what he’s written," Wan says.
UPDATE III | Reed directly addressed the growing controversy over the book on Monday, suspending Cochran for a month without pay and ordering him to attend sensitivity training. Reed, in a statement, also strongly rebuked Cochran’s anti-gay statements in his book.
“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. We are conducting a thorough review of the facts surrounding the book and its distribution. In the interim, I have directed that the following steps be taken:
- Chief Cochran will be suspended for one month without pay;
- Chief Cochran will be required to complete sensitivity training;
- Chief Cochran will be prohibited from distributing the book on city property; and
- Deputy Chief Joel G. Baker will serve as Acting Fire Chief in Chief Cochran’s absence.
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.”
UPDATE IV | Cochran earns $172,000 per year, according to the AJC, so the month-long suspension without pay will cost him $14,333.