A former Georgia health official who was fired by the Georgia Department of Public Health after a review of his sermons, has won a $225,000 settlement from the state.
Dr. Eric Walsh was hired as a manager by DPH in 2014. Walsh is also a Seventh-Day Adventist minister, who serves a congregation outside of his daily job responsibilities. Human resource officials at the state agency, upon finding some of his sermons on Youtube, asked Walsh to turn over all his sermons. After reviewing the content of the sermons, Walsh was fired.
This was a clear, “textbook,” case of religious discrimination. It could not possibly be more clear if it were written by an employment law professor for a textbook. The director of human resources emailed others at the agency, “We have to listen to his sermons on You Tube (sic) tonight. If we take a couple of hours each, then we should cover our bases.”
Nothing in Walsh’s sermons represented extreme views outside generally-accepted Christian beliefs (with exceptions for his specific denomination’s beliefs on health, which don’t affect his ability to work for the DPH). Some of the material dealt with Christian views concerning homosexuality, Islam, and evolution. It really doesn’t matter. In America, we’re allowed to believe what we want as long as we do our job–there is no thoughtcrime (at least dealing with the government).
Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is a Seventh-Day Adventist and it doesn’t seem to affect his job performance as a doctor or a government official. Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that Walsh is a minister. Pastors do and should have more protection from religious discrimination than laypeople.
Walsh filed an EEOC claim against DPH, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. EEOC sided with Walsh and allowed the suit to proceed. The state’s settlement resolved the case.
The Daily Caller reported Thursday:
“I am grateful this trial has finally ended,” Walsh said. “It’s been a long, difficult journey, but it’s worth it to have my name cleared and to ensure that all Georgia government employees know they have religious liberty.”
“This is a clear and resounding victory for religious freedom,” Jeremy Dys, of First Liberty Institute and counsel for Walsh, said. “We always knew the law was on our side, so we are pleased the State of Georgia agreed to settle this case and clear Dr. Walsh’s good name.”
Now if only fired fire chief Kelvin Cochran can get his old job back, we’d be making progress.