Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fired Atlanta Fire Chief Can Move Ahead With Retaliation and Religious Freedom Claims

In Cochran v. City of Atlanta, (ND GA, Dec. 16, 2015), a Georgia federal district court allowed the city of Atlanta's former fire chief, Kelvin Cochran-- who was also a deacon at his Baptist church-- to move ahead on many of his claims growing out of his termination after he self-published book which included statements that God intended marriage to exist exclusively between a man and a woman, and that homosexual conduct is immoral.  The court allowed Cochran to move ahead against the City of Atlanta on claims for retaliation, viewpoint discrimination, and freedom of expressive association. He was also permitted to move ahead against the city on his overbreadth and prior restraint challenge to a city ordinance requiring approval of the city's Board of Ethics before department heads may provide private services for remuneration. The court found that Mayor Kasim Reed, who was also a defendant, had qualified immunity as to these claims.  The court went on to permit plaintiff to proceed against the city and the Mayor on claims of denial of procedural due process, violation of his 1st Amendment free exercise and expressive association rights and of the Article VI ban on religious tests for office. The court dismissed Cochran's Establishment Clause claim, with leave to amend.  The court also dismissed his equal protection claims and his claims of vagueness and reputational injury.

Alliance Defending Freedom issued a press release announcing the decision. Washington Times reports on the decision.