Supporters rally for fired Atlanta fire chief

ATLANTA (BP) -- Some 600 people gathered at the Georgia Capitol Jan. 13 to support terminated Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran and ask elected officials to preserve religious liberty.

Following the rally, demonstrators delivered 40,000 petitions to Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed requesting Cochran's reinstatement. Reed fired Cochran Jan. 6 following his publication of a book that calls homosexual behavior immoral.

Meanwhile, former Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright warned the Georgia House of Representatives Jan. 14 that protection of so-called gay rights is threatening religious liberty, drawing criticism from an openly gay Georgia legislator.

At the rally for Cochran, Georgia Baptist Convention executive director Robert White told Christians, "It is time to stand up for our faith."

"We have been very courteous and quiet, but now we must become courageous and vocal about those things we hold dear as Christians and as Americans," White said.

Cochran is a deacon, Sunday School teacher and Bible study leader at Atlanta's Elizabeth Baptist Church, a cooperating church with the Georgia Baptist Convention. A two-time Atlanta fire chief, Cochran also served as U.S. Fire Administrator under President Obama from 2009-10.

"Mayor Reed," White said, "you have probably fired the most loyal employee you ever had."

Cochran delivered the final address of the rally, telling supporters that "freedom of religion and freedom of speech are under attack."

Cochran said his termination served as a warning to all city employees that "if you seek to live out the true meaning of our nation's Pledge and Constitution and have a living faith and believe that sex should be between a man and woman in the bonds of holy matrimony, ... you had better keep your mouth shut or you will be fired."

He continued, "This experience has taught me that there are worldly consequences for publicly standing for righteousness, but I stand before you to tell you that the Kingdom consequences are far greater and more glorious than the earthly consequences."

Among other speakers at the rally were Wellington Boone, bishop of the Father's House in Atlanta; Craig Oliver, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church; Ken Barun, chief of staff for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; and Alveda King, niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

In related news, Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said while delivering a devotional to the Georgia legislature that "erotic liberty" wrongly trumps religious liberty when Christians are required to support same-sex marriage in word or deed.

"We're liable to see this with our military chaplains in the years ahead if they in good conscience believe they cannot perform same-sex weddings and could be kicked out of the military," Wright said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lawmakers should protect the principle and practice of religious liberty even if "a majority of your constituencies have embraced erotic liberty over religious liberty," Wright said.

Simone Bell, one of three openly gay Georgia legislators posted on her Facebook page that she told Wright "he is a disgrace to the clergy, the Word and the state of Georgia....

"He responded that we clearly have a difference of opinion."

Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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