Scary: Georgia Pastor Fired by State Now Ordered to Turn Over Sermons

Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Although we may still be a few days from Halloween, the Georgia state government is certainly doing its best to frighten religious believers.

The target in this instance is Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister who was hired by the Georgia government in 2014 as a state health official. Walsh was by any measure eminently qualified for the job. Shortly after accepting the position, however, a spooky series of events took place:

First Liberty said Walsh was hired as a district health director on May 7, 2014. A few days later, DPH officers and other government workers began investigating his religious activities.

“DPH officers and other employees spent hours reviewing these and other of Dr. Walsh’s sermons and other public addresses available online, analyzing and taking notes on his religious beliefs and viewpoints on social, cultural and other matters of public concern as expressed in the sermons and other public addresses,” the lawsuit states.

The behavior of the DPH was so egregious that its own counsel twice warned them on May 15 that “under federal law Dr. Walsh’s religious beliefs could play no role in any employment decision by DPH.”

But on May 16, the DPH announced it had rescinded the job offer that Dr. Walsh had already accepted.

Dr. Walsh, of course, immediately filed suit against the Georgia government, accusing them of engaging in religious discrimination. But then, things got even scarier:

On September 28, in the process of building their legal case against Walsh, the State of Georgia served a Request for Production of Documents on Walsh, which requires Walsh to surrender copies of his sermon notes and transcripts.

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

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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

Two Black Men Fired by Georgia Government for Being Christian Shows Need for FADA

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The case of Eric Walsh, a distinguished physician and Seventh-day Adventist, should be extraordinary. Government health care workers attended his church to evaluate the part-time pastor’s sermons and decided to revoke his job.

The thing is, it’s not extraordinary: Eric Walsh is actually the second highly accomplished black man to be fired by a Georgia government for expressing Christian views of sex and marriage.

The first was Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who raised the ire of the LGBT community by writing one paragraph in a self-published Bible study on sins of impurity, including homosexuality.

John Kasich may cry peace, but meanwhile the Left is using its political and regulatory powers to redefine the expression of Christian views as the equivalent of racism.

Dr. Walsh, whose record of service to his patients is faultless, was astonished to discover he had come under Grand Inquisitors’ fire:

“I don’t believe I did anything wrong,” Dr. Walsh told me in an exclusive interview. “This has been very painful for me. I really am a strong believer in the Constitution. But now I feel like maybe all these ideals and values that I was raised to believe – the ideals they [sic] country was founded upon – no longer exist.”

Georgia needs a First Amendment Defense Act. And so does the U.S. Congress.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project and can be followed on Twitter @MaggieGallaghe. Continue Reading