A recent episode of Al Mohler’s the Briefing podcast explains the real issue behind the firing of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.
Here is the relevant part of the transcript:
“Mr. Cochran held his own news conference Tuesday. He said that the city’s investigation found that he had not acted in a discriminatory way toward gay people, and said that he had asked for, and received, permission from the proper bureaucratic channels to write the book — an assertion [the Mayor’s] office disputes.”
So gay advocates are cheering the mayors decision, the mayor finds himself in something of a political controversy, but the fire chief is out. He’s out of a job for having written a book that was basically privately published and very narrowly distributed in which he stated something that is fundamental to evangelical moral conviction – something that basically amounts to nothing more, or least a little more, than actually quoting the Bible, quoting the Scriptures.
The mayor described the book, or at least this portion of the book, as having inflammatory content. But once again, looking at the material supplied by the media, the inflammatory content is what is drawn directly from Scripture – especially from very specific biblical verses dealing with homosexuality. So what we’re looking at here is an undeniable case in which religious conviction actually got the Fire Chief of Atlanta fired; fired simply because he dared to write a book in which he stated his Christian convictions.
This raises a host of very interesting and complex, not to say troubling, questions. Can anyone now be an evangelical Christian and serve as a Fire Chief or even in the fire department? This raises the question as to whether one can believe that homosexuality is a sin without discriminating against homosexuals. The clear implication of the Mayor’s decision is that the Fire Chief is out, not because he acted in any way, in any discriminatory fashion toward any gay member of the fire department staff or anyone else for that matter, but simply because he expressed his biblical conviction that homosexuality is a sin.
Now once again, this raises a host of very interesting questions the mayor and furthermore our culture is not going to be able to avoid. Is the Bible itself now going to be defined as hate speech because by any measure the language that the Fire Chief used is drawn, if not immediately from Scripture, then with language that is tantamount to it? Can anyone who holds to a biblical understanding of sexuality, anyone who is a member of an evangelical congregation serve in this kind of political and public role? Or does that moral conviction absolutely mean, in a categorical sense, that discrimination is the obvious outcome? Or is holding the belief itself, is holding that biblical conviction itself a form of discrimination; even if no discriminatory act ever follows?
[…]Let’s look at exactly how the mayor describe his decision as the New York Times reports and I quote,
“Despite my respect for Chief Cochran’s service, I believe his actions and decision-making undermine his ability to effectively manage a large, diverse work force. Every single employee under the fire chief’s command deserves the certainty that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions.”
Well let’s just look at that statement and imagine what the Mayor has now not only implied but openly stated by firing the chief. One can’t hold that all persons are of value, one can’t operate in terms of neutrality, in terms of personnel decisions, if one holds to traditional biblical Christianity. Some may argue that it isn’t the problem that the chief held these positions and convictions but it’s a problem that he published them, that he put them in print.
But as the world is supposedly universally affirming the importance of freedom of expression, are we now to be told that evangelical Christians – or for that matter Orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics – simply must hold their tongue and hold their peace? Never putting their biblical convictions into print or into some form of public statement? The action in Atlanta is not only ominous, it’s absolutely frightening. The religious liberty implications of the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage are massive, they are unavoidable, and they are now inevitable. And they’re showing up in this case not in New York City or Seattle but in Atlanta, Georgia – right in the heart of the South, in a city that the New York Times acknowledges includes millions of evangelical Christians and others who would also hold to the Chief’s conviction.
No matter how lavishly people may claim to believe in freedom of expression and no matter how much they may argue this isn’t an issue of religious liberty, the bare facts are simply unavoidable. The Fire Chief of Atlanta has been fired. Not because he acted in any way that was discriminatory, not because any employee brought any grievance against him for acting in a discriminatory manner, but merely for having stated, for having articulated in print, his biblical convictions on issues of morality.
I urge people who want to take a position on homosexuality and/or same-sex marriage to write under an alias. The more serious a sin is, the more people who engage in it will go to any lengths necessary in order to stop criticism of it. The invocation of “tolerance” and “diversity” on the gay left is a smokescreen. Their goal is to make everyone who disagrees with them not only agree but actually celebrate their behavior. That’s one of the reasons why we need to careful about letting our natural compassion cause us to approve of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. We have our protect the right to say “it’s wrong”. Al Mohler has a longer article on this conflict between religious liberty and erotic liberty up today, too.
UPDATE: Today’s episode of the The Briefing takes a look at the response from the mainstream media, including the response of a gay New York Times columnist. Mohler’s main point is that secularists want to reduce the religious liberty to worship inside a church and private feelings. But religious liberty is more than that – it is the right to honor and respect God in every aspect of our lives, including freedom to speak our disagreement with immorality, and the right to educate our children in schools that respect OUR values – not the values that the secular left seeks to impose on us. Mohler also links to a response by pro-marriage scholar Mark Regnerus.