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Be careful of what you say off the job; it may come back to bite you in the hindquarters.
Dr. Eric Walsh, who once served as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, was fired from his position as a Georgia district health director for “controversial” sermons he delivered in church as a lay minister.
But he’s fighting back.
On Wednesday the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert and First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy and legal defense organization, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Walsh against the Georgia Department of Public Health.
After Walsh accepted his position as District Health Director for Northwest Georgia, the Department of Public health requested transcripts of his sermons.
Those sermons, delivered at his Seventh Day Adventist church, included such topics as following God, compassion for the poor, marriage and sexuality, science and creationism.
In an email, the DPH Director of Human Resources assigned several of Dr. Walsh’s sermons to employees to review and critique. The day after Dr. Walsh provided sermons to the state, government officials informed Dr. Walsh that he was terminated.
“I couldn’t believe they fired me because of things I talked about in my sermons,” Walsh said. “It was devastating. I have been unable to get a job in public health since then.”
The lawsuit that was filed accuses the Georgia Department of Public Health of religious discrimination and retaliation against Walsh.
“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” stated Andrew Coffman, partner in the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert and a First Liberty volunteer attorney. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing his religious beliefs – especially when that expression takes place in a church setting.”
“Religious liberty means we should be able to find sanctuary in our own sanctuary,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty. “If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, then they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything.”
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Watch the clip, via First Liberty Institute.
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