A former Atlanta fire chief who sparked debate with his homophobic views a decade ago is back in the spotlight this week, following a speech in which he said it was God’s plan that «allowed» Africans to They were brought to the United States as slaves.

During a Black History Month celebration Monday hosted by the Georgia Department of Labor, Kelvin J. Cochran, who is black, took the podium to explain how his religious views fit with the country’s founding story. . On an unlisted YouTube video, Cochran begins his patriotic speech by saying that the United States «has been a part of God’s divine plan since the beginning of time.» Then, midway through his comments, he talks about slavery, alluding that everything in American history is part of his «his story.»

“Slavery in America didn’t take God by surprise,” Cochran said. “In his sovereignty, God…allowed Africans to be brought to America as slaves. Africa was on the eve of a social, spiritual and economic catastrophe and famine, which is still ongoing. So, he brought 6 million Africans to America through the Middle Passage as slaves.»

Cochran compared African slavery to slavery in Israel, saying, «Just as it was God’s divine plan to enslave the nation of Israel,» God’s sovereignty «allowed Africans to be brought into America in captivity.» He also quoted a verse from the book of Genesis, when God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. He also pointed out that slave masters insisted on teaching slaves about Christianity, and that enslaved people gathered outside churches to eavesdrop on worship sermons.

In 2013, Cochran, who was a former fire chief with the Atlanta Fire Department, gave his subordinates a copy of his self-published Bible study book, “Who told you that you were naked?”, which included homophobic comments such as homosexuals and those who have sex outside of marriage are “naked”, evil and ungodly sinners. He also called homosexuality a «sexual perversionand compared it to bestiality.

In October 2014, an assistant fire marshal raised concerns about the book, and the following month Cochran was suspended for 30 days without pay for failing to obtain approval or provide proper notice prior to the book’s publication. . Following his suspension, Cochran launched a campaign alleging that he had been fired because of his religious beliefs, which ultimately led to his firing in January 2015.

In October 2018, the Atlanta City Council voted to pay Cochran $1.2 million to settle his lawsuit against the city and former mayor Kasim Reed over his firing. Cochran currently serves as Senior Fellow and Vice President of Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative and Christian-based organization. that represented him in his lawsuit against the city of Atlanta.

Towards the end of his speech, Cochran acknowledged figures like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, who he said were the reason he could «stand here and tell my story» and «celebrate history month African American”.

“This is the bottom line: we all got here in different boats, but now we are in the same boat,” he said. “And if we could still our souls enough to look at God’s sovereignty in our history, his goodness and his mercy, we will all cry out together:“ I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be in my mouth.’”

«I thank God for America, and I thank God for American history,» he added.

He concluded his speech with the lyrics of the song “This Land Is Your Land”.

The Georgia Department of Labor and Alliance Defending Freedom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.