A Seventh Day Adventist lay minister is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination, alleging that state officials terminated him because of his religious beliefs.
Dr. Eric Walsh, the Department’s former District Health Director for Northwest Georgia, claims that he was fired after Georgia officials requested copies of sermons he gave as a lay minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. According to a press release, the sermons covered “following God, having compassion on the poor, health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science, creationism, and more…” Now, Walsh–with the assistance of Texas-based First Liberty Institute and the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert–is suing his former employer for religious discrimination.
“I couldn’t believe they fired me because of things I talked about in my sermons,” said Dr. Walsh. “It was devastating. I have been unable to get a job in public health since then.”
The lawsuit, which was filed on Walsh’s behalf in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against the State of Georgia’s Department of Public Health by First Liberty and Parks, Chesin & Walbert, charges the Peach State with both religious discrimination and retaliation against Walsh.
A week after Walsh, who once served on President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs and holds a Doctorate of Public Health, accepted the job at DPH in May 2014, his superiors requested copies of sermons he had preached at his church. An email obtained by Conservative Review shows the Department’s Director of Human Resources tasked out several of the sermons to other employees to review. Walsh was informed of his termination just a day later, according to First Liberty’s press release.
Following a roughly 18-month, separate investigation by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Walsh and his legal team were given the green light to move forward with the suit.
“It’s illegal in hiring and firing in this country to consider a person’s religion” under the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, explains First Liberty’s Senior Counsel, Jeremy Dys.