The Atlanta City Council has voted to pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the city’s former fire chief, who was fired after a writing a book that denounces homosexuality.
The Council voted 11-3 to approve the settlement, which now heads to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for her approval, reports NBC News.
The lawsuit was filed against Bottoms’ predecessor, Kasim Reed, but the city’s legal counsel had urged the city to settle the lawsuit to avoid paying a higher amount in damages and legal fees.
Kelvin Cochran sued Reed’s administration after he was fired for writing a book called “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” for a men’s Bible study. He self-published the book in late 2013 and gave it to some subordinates.
Part of the book claims that people who have sex outside of a marriage — defined only as between a man and a woman, according to Cochran’s religious worldview — including LGBTQ people, are “naked,” meaning they are “wicked, ungodly sinners.”
A year later, an assistant fire chief raised concerns about Cochran proselytizing on the job and about the book’s statements on homosexuality, particularly since Cochran touted his role as Atlanta’s fire chief.
Reed then suspended Cochran for 30 days because he had failed to adhere to the city’s guidelines for obtaining prior written approval before undertaking outside employment.
Reed told Cochran not to make public comments about his suspension, a direct order which Cochran proceeded to violate. Reed then fired Cochran, who sued the city, alleging he was fired because of his religious beliefs.
Supporters of Cochran sent 17,000 angry emails — many containing racial slurs — to Reed, accusing him of discriminating against Cochran.
Last December, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May of the Northern District of Georgia ruled that the city did not violate Cochran’s right to free speech or free association, not did it discriminate against him based on his religious beliefs.
But May did find that the city’s rules for obtaining pre-clearance for outside employment were likely unconstitutional, as they fail to define what could constitute a potential conflict of interest.
The right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Cochran, continues to cast the issue as one of religious discrimination and free speech, despite May’s ruling that neither of those situations applied to Cochran’s case. Nonetheless, ADF celebrated the settlement in a statement issued to NBC News on their client’s behalf.
“We are very pleased that the city is compensating Chief Cochran as it should, and we hope this will serve as a deterrent to any government that would trample upon the constitutionally protected freedoms of its public servants,” said attorney Kevin Theriot.
An Australian father pleaded guilty to beating his six-year-old son for sitting on another boy's lap in what he believed was a sexual interaction.
The 28-year-old father of three from Mackay, North Queensland -- whose name is being kept anonymous under Australian privacy laws -- reportedly yelled "being gay is wrong" as he beat the his eldest son and threw him to the ground, screaming: "If they were adults I would have killed them."
He then turned his rage on the child's mother, who had entered the room to protect the couple's infant daughter. He grabbed the woman, pinned her against the wall by her throat, and choked her until she lost consciousness.
The mayor of a small town in the Occitanie region of France has been hospitalized after he was stripped, robbed, and tied to a tree at a popular gay cruising spot.
The 67-year-old victim, who has not been named, was found by emergency responders in a car park on Chemin de la Loge in the city of Toulouse -- a location known as a gay meeting place. His attackers had stolen his car and clothes before fleeing the scene, La Dépêche reports.
According to police, the man -- the mayor of a small village in the administrative division of Aveyron -- was attacked around midnight on Friday, Sept. 10, after getting out of his car.
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