From the editorial board of the New York Times:
Until last week, Kelvin Cochran was the chief of the Atlanta fire department, where he oversaw a work force of more than 1,000 firefighters and staff. He was fired on Jan. 6 by Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, for homophobic language in the book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” Among other things, he called homosexuality a “perversion,” compared it to bestiality and pedophilia, and said homosexual acts are “vile, vulgar and inappropriate.”
Mr. Cochran had already been suspended for a month in November for distributing the book to staff members. Following an internal investigation, the mayor did the right thing and dismissed Mr. Cochran for what he called poor judgment: specifically, for failing to get approval for the book’s publication, for commenting publicly on his suspension after being told not to, and for exposing the city to possible discrimination lawsuits.
It should not matter that the investigation found no evidence that Mr. Cochran had mistreated gays or lesbians. His position as a high-level public servant makes his remarks especially problematic, and requires that he be held to a different standard. The First Amendment already protects religious freedom. Nobody can tell Mr. Cochran what he can or cannot believe. If he wants to work as a public official, however, he may not foist his religious views on other city employees who have the right to a boss who does not speak of them as second-class citizens.
Hate groups will rally at the Georgia Capitol Building this afternoon in support of Cochran’s alleged right to proselytize at the workplace and hand out anti-gay rants to his subordinates.