At a speech at a Black History Month event on Monday, a former Atlanta fire chief suggested that God allowed Africans to be brought to America as slaves as part of his divine purpose. According to NBC News, Kelvin J. Cochran’s ideas have caused controversy in the past.
The event was presented by the Georgia Department of Labor and broadcast on YouTube. And, in his speech, Cochran, who is Black, mentioned how his views on religion align with the creation of America. The former fire chief begins his statement by stating that “America has been a part of God’s divine design since the beginning of time.” He later mentions slavery and says that “his story” is intertwined with everything in American history.
“Slavery in America did not catch God by surprise,” Cochran, a former fire chief at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, said. “In his sovereignty, God … allowed Africans to be brought to America as slaves. Africa was on the eve of social, spiritual and economic catastrophe and famine — still going on today. So, He brought 6 million Africans to America through the Middle Passage as slaves.”
Cochran also compared the enslavement in Israel to African slavery. “Just as it was God’s divine design to enslave the nation of Israel,” God authorized “Africans to be transported to America in bondage” in his sovereignty. Cochran mentioned a Genesis scripture in which God told Abraham that his offspring would be subjected to servitude and abuse for 400 years. He also said that, despite slave masters’ refusal to teach about slavery and Religion, enslaved people gathered outside churches to surreptitiously listen to worship services, according to NBS News.
Cochran also paid tribute to civil rights leaders such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, adding that he could “stand up here and share my narrative” and “celebrate African American history month” because of them.
“Here’s the bottom line — we all came here on different boats, but now we’re in the same boat,” he said. “And if we can only quieten our souls long enough, to look at the sovereignty of God in our history, his goodness and his mercies, we would all cry out together, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.’”
“I thank God for America, and I thank God for American history,” he added. Cochran’s homophobic remarks have already raised concerns. In 2013, he distributed a copy of a Bible study book he had authored to his employees. Titled “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”, the book is said to have homophobic comments that claim gay people as well as individuals who have premarital sex are “naked”, wicked and ungodly sinners, NBC News reported. He also labeled homosexuality a “sexual perversion” and likened it to bestiality.
Cochran was suspended without pay in 2014 for failing to seek consent or issue an official notification before publishing the book. Once an assistant fire chief expressed reservations about the book, he was suspended. Following his suspension, Cochran launched a campaign claiming he was fired because of his religious convictions. In January 2015, he was removed of his duties.
Nonetheless, Atlanta paid Cochran $1.2 million in 2018 to settle a lawsuit he filed against the city and ex-Mayor Kasim Reed over his termination. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, represented the former fire chief. Cochran is now a senior fellow and the organization’s vice president.