Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
(CNSNews.com) – Former Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said “a law that protects any statement of religious or political belief that’s irrelevant to the job duties should be passed,” in response to a question about whether former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran should have been fired for expressing his viewsthat marriage is between one man and one woman.
Frank, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, later added that, “just as I would say if you say you believe in racial discrimination or religious discrimination, any time you are at an agency that is in charge of protecting and enforcing constitutional rights, and you express your view that that constitutional right should not exist or is damaging to the country, then you should not be in the enforcement position there.”
Frank testified on Capitol Hill against the proposed First Amendment Defense Act, introduced in the House in June, which aims to “prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”
Kelvin Cochran, appointed U.S. Fire Administrator from 2008 to 2010 by President Barack Obama, also testified at the hearing. He told the story of his 30-day suspension and eventual firing from his position as fire chief in Atlanta for writing a book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, in which he expressed the view that marriage was between one man and one woman.
Cochran is now suing the City of Atlanta with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“Do you condone the harassment made by the city of Atlanta against Chief Cochran?” Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) asked Barney Frank during the hearing.
I’ve said several times that I don’t,” Frank said. As for the First Amendment Defense Act, Frank added, “this bill, of course, would do nothing to prevent that. The bill, if I could use lawyer’s terms, it’s over-inclusive and under-inclusive. It protects only one set of statements, a particular religious belief about a particular issue.”
“I think the bill ought to be to give protection to any statement of any religious or political belief as long as it’s not job relevant -- in his [Cochran’s] case it wasn’t job relevant,” said Frank.
“If it was for the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, it would be,” Frank explained. “I think a law that protects any statement of religious or political belief that’s irrelevant to the job duties should be passed.”
Matthew J Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, followed up with Frank, saying, “Former Congressman Frank has now twice referred to persons working within the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. Earlier he also referred to persons working in the EEOC. And if I understood him correctly he regarded people’s opinions on marriage there as so fundamentally job related that he would let them go, even if they did not act on those beliefs in their official capacity, in their job performance. So, again, perhaps he would like to clarify or qualify what he said, and I invite him to do so.”
Matthew J. Franck continued, “I am sure that there are persons who believe in conjugal marriage between one man and one woman working today in the civil rights division and the EEOC, and it sounded like he’d like them to lose their jobs.”
Barney Frank replied, “Just as I would say, if you say you believe in racial discrimination or religious discrimination any time, you are at an agency that is in charge of protecting and enforcing constitutional rights and you express your view that that constitutional right should not exist or is damaging to the country, then you should not be in the enforcement position there.”