A public health expert and Seventh-day Adventist pastor was fired by Georgia's Department of Public Health after public officials were assigned to watch and review the content of his sermons on YouTube, official government documents indicate.
On Wednesday, The First Liberty Institute announced that it filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eric Walsh against the DPH, alleging that he was fired by the agency over concerns about his sermons' content on homosexuality.
As it is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make employment decisions based on a person's religion, documents and email conversations obtained by First Liberty through the Freedom of Information Act appear to reveal a host of damning charges against the DPH.
According to an obtained email, Walsh, who has a medical degree, doctorate in public health and was appointed to President Obama's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs, was hired in early May 2014 and scheduled to begin working for the agency on June 16, 2014.
But as controversy had previously surrounded Walsh's conservative views on marriage in California, when LGBT activists protested his selection as commencement speaker at Pasadena City College, documents indicate that officials at the DPH decided to conduct an investigation of their own into Walsh's view on marriage.
According to an email from May 14, 2014 that was sent by the DPH's human resources executive Lee Rudd, it is clear that a number of employees were specifically assigned to take a few hours and listen to the content of Walsh's sermons.
"OK … I have an assignment for several of us. 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," Rudd wrote. "I will enlist Dwana [Prince] to help us. Kate [Pfirman, Chief Financial Officer for the DPH] is going to listen to them as well."
Following the review, the lawsuit claims that a meeting was "hastily arranged" the next day by officials to discuss the sermons and Walsh's future with the department.
"The unlawful and discriminatory intent and tenor of the May 15, 2014 meeting compelled DPH general counsel Sidney Barrett to warn not once, but twice, during the same meeting that under federal law Dr. Walsh's religious beliefs could play no role in any employment decision by DPH," the lawsuit states.
Fox News reports that another staffer allegedly warned that Walsh should be hired based on his qualifications.
"Not only is there no smoking gun, there is every reason to believe, even from his detractors own words, that he is the excellent health director we believed he would be," the staffer said according to a document obtained by First Liberty. "If we do not hire this applicant on the basis of the evidence of job performance and disqualify him on the basis of discrimination by those who seek to advance their own agenda and do him harm, I believe we are no better than they are."
Despite the warnings, the officials decided during or after the meeting that they would terminate Walsh's employment opportunity. On May 16, 2014, Walsh's job offer was officially rescinded.
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