The Left Fires Dr. Eric Walsh, African-American Hero, for His Sermons

Photo credit: Jennifer Moo via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Can a state government demand to see the sermons preached by a public health professional who is also a part-time pastor? And can it, after seeing those sermons, rescind an agreed-upon job offer made to that highly-credentialed professional?

It would seem not, because the facts are just too suggestive of a causal relationship between the sermon investigation and the job-yanking. We would seem to have here a violation of the Free Exercise Clause, and also of the Religious Test Clause, which originally applied only to federal officials but was extended to state officials by the Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961).

Dr. Eric Walsh is an African-American man who rose out of poverty to earn both an MD and PhD in public health. In 2014 the Georgia Department of Public Health scored a recruitment success when it hired Dr. Walsh away from his public health job in Pasadena, Calif., to become Georgia’s Director of Public Health.

But then — in a series of events that remains murky but will no doubt be thrashed out in lawsuit Dr. Walsh has recently filed — Georgia officials demanded that Dr. Walsh turn over to it videos of sermons he had preached in his role as an associate pastor at his Seventh-day Adventist church.

Many smaller religious denominations in our country get by with the help of part-time pastors, who often excel in their primary careers outside their church, as Dr. Walsh has. The Seventh-day Adventists, for their part, hold strongly traditional beliefs on many issues. Continue Reading

Good News for Little Sisters of the Poor?

The Little Sisters of the Poor and supporters rally outside of the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016 (photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

In Zubik v. Burwell, the set of cases in which the Little Sisters of Poor and several other religious nonprofits are challenging the right of the U.S. government to force them participate in the delivery of contraceptives, including abortifacients, via their Obamacare-mandated health insurance plans, the Supreme Court took an unexpected step on March 29 — and the results are starting to come in.

Before the tragic death of Justice Antonin Scalia, this case was expected to be a 5-4 victory for the nonprofits. Without him, it was expected to be a 4-4 tie, leaving intact (but without the binding effect of precedent) all the cases that had been consolidated under the Zubik name — all but one of which had gone against the nonprofits.

Neither is happening. On March 29, after hearing oral arguments in the case, the Court issued a most unusual order, telling both sides to file new briefs on possible options that might relieve the nonprofits of all moral complicity in evil as they see it, while still accomplishing the government’s goals. This order was given, as Supreme Court orders (but not opinions) always are, in the name of the Court as a whole, not any individual Justice or set of them.

The Court even helpfully put its own suggestion on the table, remarking that, perhaps, if mere non-inclusion of the offending devices and chemicals could, without further action by the nonprofits, signal to the insurance company that they had to provide them, and no contraception-triggering “opt-out notice” were demanded from the nonprofits (unlike the Obama administration’s present “compromise” “accommodation”), this might satisfy everyone’s consciences and we could all go get a pizza. Continue Reading