In 1962, in the middle of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the State of New York required Harry Keyishian and four other employees of the University of Buffalo to certify they were not communists to keep their jobs.

Increasingly, government officials are seeing Christians as the communists of the Cold War. They are considered “subversive” by current politically correct standards. Public officials across the country are taking steps to marginalize and silence them through fines and termination of employment.

Fast forward to 2015. Apparently, the city of Atlanta thinks former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran should be treated the same way because of his Christian beliefs.

In 1962 New York was trying to make sure it wasn’t employing any “subversive” persons. At that time state employees could be fired for the “mere expression of belief” favoring communism. The employees sued. Their case Keyishian v. Board of Regents made it to the Supreme Court, which struck down the law  because it violated the constitutionally protected free speech of the employees.

Increasingly, government officials are seeing Christians as the communists of the Cold War. They are considered “subversive” by current politically correct standards. Public officials across the country are taking steps to marginalize and silence them through fines and termination of employment.

The Keyishian case ended a long-standing and prevalent practice of firing government employees because of their beliefs. Today, as long as employees are doing a good job, they cannot be disqualified from government service just for expressing their beliefs.

That’s a lesson that the city of Atlanta should have learned before it fired him Cochran because he believes, just like Christians all over the world, that sex should be limited to a marriage between a man and a woman. And that’s why I and my colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on his behalf in federal court on February 18.

No one framed the city’s position better than City Councilman Alex Wan when he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November, “I respect each individual’s right to have their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, but when you’re a city employee and those thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door.”

Cochran was one of the first African-American firemen in Shreveport, La., 34 years ago. He worked his way up from that job to being nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009 to the position of U.S. Fire Administrator, the highest ranking fire official in the nation in 2009.

In 2010, he began his second stint as Atlanta’s fire chief after Mayor Kasim Reed, the same person who has now fired Cochran, “begged” the chief to come back to Atlanta.

Cochran was named Fire Chief of the Year in 2012. He also helped Atlanta obtain a Class 1 Public Protection Classification for the very first time in the city’s history in 2014.

Then, in 2013, Cochran wrote a self-published Christian devotional book designed for men. When city officials read the book and learned that he actually believes what the Bible says about limiting sex to marriage between a man and a woman, they fired him. They took this step although an internal city investigation found that Cochran never discriminated against anyone.

That’s because Cochran’s beliefs were what led to his termination, as the mayor specifically pointed out to USA Today last month: “I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran’s book is not representative of my personal beliefs and is inconsistent with the administration’s work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens….”

Welcoming? What about those who hold to historic Christian beliefs?

Georgia’s congressional delegation has called upon Reed to reinstate Cochran.

This drive to keep Bible-believing Christians from earning a living is not just limited to employees. Small business owners like Elaine Huguenin in New Mexico, Jack Phillips in Colorado, and Barronelle Stutzman in Washington have been subjected to fines and prosecution from the government for their religious convictions because they referred customers elsewhere for services related to same-sex ceremonies.

Increasingly, government officials are seeing Christians as the communists of the Cold War. They are considered “subversive” by current politically correct standards. Public officials across the country are taking steps to marginalize and silence them through fines and termination of employment.

The good news is our Founding Fathers were smart enough to guarantee freedom of speech and religion in the First Amendment. This freedom can’t be disregarded for any American – even and especially for one who is serving in government.

After Keyishian, the Supreme Court reaffirmed this principle when Tennessee officials disqualified Paul McDaniel from serving as a constitutional delegate because he was a Baptist minister. The high court found this discrimination unconstitutional, and Justice William Brennan presciently stated in his concurring opinion that “government [cannot] treat religion and those who teach or practice it, simply by virtue of their status as such, as subversive of American ideals and therefore subject to unique disabilities.”

Atlanta’s officials would do well to remember Justice Brennan’s wise words.

Kevin Theriot is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is legally representing former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.