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Listen to the 10 min audio
Read the transcript:
TOM LAMPRECHT: Today is January 15th. On the calendar, that marks the recognition of Martin Luther King and his birthday.
DR. REEDER: The legacy of his significant life-long initiative in terms of maintaining the proper application of the Bill of Rights to all of the citizens of the United States, particularly, attacking the inequities of the Jim Crow Laws in the Jim Crow era.
GOVERNMENT ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE KELVIN COCHRAN
Now, Tom, I’d like to talk to you today about another African-American of significance. His name is Kelvin Cochran and I find it interesting that he was removed from his job as a fire chief. Now, remember, this is a fellow who was appointed by President Obama to assist in the matter of fire safety issues from the federal level. This was a man who was notably called “Employee of the Year” and given many awards in terms of his abilities as a leader, doing a stellar job in Atlanta and is a vibrant Christian.
As a vibrant Christian, he’s engaged in his church and, being engaged in his church, he actually does Bible studies for other African-American men. Now, we have all noted – and rightly so – one of the great needs is to reclaim the stability of the family structure and marriage in the African-American community and that was a burden that he had and, at the request of his pastor, he not only was addressing the issue in the church, but he also published something.
The book was obtained by some of the employees – he didn’t even give it to them, it was just obtained by them – and, somehow, the mayor found out about it and, basically, told Kelvin Cochran that he had to cease and desist from his activities of free speech and the free practice of religion and, if he was to be employed by the government of Atlanta, the city government of Atlanta could take away his free practice of religion and free speech. He held fast to his rights. I remember when he talked about it: “For the sake of others, I am going to pursue this case,” which he did and now we have the verdict that he has won.
MLK’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOMS CONTINUES
I want to come back to him, but I want to make the contrast. Here he is in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the site of many of the great ultimate victories of Martin Luther King’s initiative to remove segregation.
And, of course, I live in Birmingham, where he was arrested and where he wrote, perhaps, one of the most dynamic and insightful statements to the Christian community and fellow pastors concerning the responsibility not to leave unaddressed any cultural oppression of any segment of society because of the dignity of all men and women made in the image of God. These letters from the Birmingham jail, I highly commend people to read them.
Well, here’s an African-American that the governments of local cities throughout our nation, in general, and the south, in particular, attempted to silence him, but he would not be silenced and he embraced a Christian world and life view, which meant he did this from a non-violence approach. He did this reasoning in terms of constitutional rights and, also, being framed from a Christian world and life view as noted in these letters from the Birmingham jail.
Here he is doing that – his greatest success is in Atlanta and, now, at the time of the occurrence with Kelvin Cochran, here is an African-American who has benefitted from Martin Luther King’s “free speech” and “free practice of religion,” who is a noted employee with noted records and noted accolades and honor, who is now being silenced in his free practice of religion and his free speech by an Atlanta government, which now has a mayor who is an African-American who has employed that silencing chilling effect upon Kelvin Cochran.
JUSTICE IN THE COURT
Noting that this is obviously not a racial issue, this is a world and life view issue and this is an issue of governmental fascist oppression of Christianity, specifically, in the life of Kelvin Cochran by the government, itself – that’s why it’s fascist – attempting to thwart it. Now, thankfully, he pursued it and, thankfully, the courts have listened to the case and, thankfully, they have ruled with consistency by the Constitution and logic and what ought to have been the ruling has come forward.
It does not speak to the fact that private companies can have requirements upon accepted speech and dress and things in their employment. The government cannot take away Constitutional rights from its employees – the right to assemble, the right to free speech and the right of the free practice of religion – so he won his case. His comments were he is so grateful that he won for the sake of American citizens and their ability to freely function.
Here it is, from a Christian world and life view, through an African-American, the nation has been blessed and we even celebrate it with a holiday, Martin Luther King Day. Here is an African-American operating from the blessings of the success of Martin Luther King’s initiative and this young African-American was operating from a Christian world and life view and benefitting the entire nation with his expertise but, yet, was attempted to be silenced because, now, the government of Atlanta decided that it did not want an employee who was living consistently in the life of his church and the life of his family promoting a Christian world and life view and his discipling and publications of marriage and, specifically, that sex belongs in the context of marriage.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, do you see this as a possible beginning of a paradigm shift in attitudes?
WHY THIS CASE MATTERS FOR CHRISTIANS
DR. REEDER: No, I don’t see it as a paradigm shift in attitudes. I do see it as a refreshingly accurate and consistent ruling from the court that will protect Christians living out their faith, visually and verbally, and that they don’t have to give up their life and church – their life as a Christian and the way that they conduct themselves – when they are employed by the government and the government is not allowed to suspend our constitutional rights, nor the Bill of Rights – it’s not allowed to suspend it – as a condition of employment.
And I think that is a blessing because we have many Christians who are employed in the government and with much of today’s legislation that is advancing the sexual revolution, here is a ruling that would stop such tactics in the government of oppressing and removing the Christian world and life view by requiring the suspension of constitutional rights of Christians. As the government continues to lead the way in the sexual revolution and as Christians in the government speak up against it or live lives contrary to it in their attempt to be faithful to the Word of God. And, remember, the Bible’s very clear about this – Paul says to the church at Thessalonia, “This is the will of God for your life that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
IN THE SPIRIT OF MLK AND COCHRAN, TAKE COURAGE
Therefore, as they attempt to be faithful to the Lord, that at least the government cannot suppress them, oppress them or fire them, which may contribute to a shift of attitudes as believers live freely as salt and light in the environs of their governmental employment.
TOM LAMPRECHT: For Kelvin Cochran, despite media reports to the contrary, he is in a position to recover his lost wages and benefits and a remote possibility that he could get his job back but, when he was facing the choice, “Do I back down and keep my job or do I do what the Lord would have me to do?” he made the hard choice.
DR. REEDER: What he has done and how the court rules, hopefully, will be an encouragement to believers throughout every sphere of society. If Christians are in media, if they’re in Wall Street, if they’re in corporate America, if they’re in academic America, they will find their God-given courage to courageously, yet humbly, speak the truth in love.
Kelvin Cochran is such a man and I am grateful for him. We need to keep putting such models and mentors into the life of the next generation of believers.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.