Public Health Expert in Georgia Sues Over Job Termination Allegedly Due To His Sermons As A Lay Minister

Unknown-1We have been discussing the increasing monitoring and punishment of public employees for statements made during their personal time, including speech normally protected as free speech. The latest example of this trend is Dr. Eric Walsh, a public health expert who also serves as a lay minister. Walsh was fired for sermons on issues ranging from homosexuality to evolution. He has now filled a lawsuit and could prove important in exploring the protection for public employees with regard to political and religious speech outside of work. There remains an uncertain line as to the right of public employees to engage in free speech outside of work that may be offensive or insulting to particular groups or faiths. As a general rule, free speech demands bright-line rules to avoid the chilling effects that come with such uncertainty.

According to a press release, “Dr. Eric Walsh has multiple advanced degrees who served on President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs.” He position was to be the District Health Director for Northwest Georgia, a position that could presumably be fulfilled without the expression or application of his religious views as a lay minister.

A Seventh Day Adventist lay minister, Walsh spoke freely on issues like health, homosexuality, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science and creationism. That allegedly did not sit well with the Georgia Department of Public Health, which has made no comment on the lawsuit.

The investigation of Walsh’s sermons followed his hiring as a district health director on May 7, 2014. A few days later, DPH officers and other government workers opened up an investigation into his sermons and views. On May 16, the DPH announced it had rescinded the job offer. It said that the “action by the department follows a thorough examination of Dr. Walsh’s credentials and background as well as consultation with the six local boards of health which comprise the district.”

Obviously, it is important to hear the side of the state as to why Walsh was viewed as unacceptable based on such sermons. However, it seems to me that holding anti-homosexual views alone should not be a barrier for a minister so long as he complies with state guidelines and policies in the performance of his duties. That is clearly not the view of the Health Initiative, an Atlanta-based group supporting LGBT health issues. The organization’s direction insisted that “Dr. Walsh’s public displays of anti-gay propaganda and religious rhetoric will become symbols of the department and will further isolate an already vulnerable population. We believe this hire is detrimental to the wellbeing of our community, as well as to the effectiveness of the Department to conduct meaningful outreach to LGBT Georgians.”

The countervailing concern however concerns the increasing scrutiny for public employees, particularly due to social media posting. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, England, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), here, here, students (here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here).

The concerns are acute in this case due to the exercise of free speech on core religious values and beliefs. Just as I would be equally concerned about the firing of a minister for espousing LGBT rights and values, the question is when a person’s moral views can or should be grounds for termination. We need to see the answer of the Department to see if Walsh’s general religious view of homosexuality was the driving force behind the action or whether there were other questions raised over his qualifications. For the moment, there are legitimate questions raised by the action and deserve to be answered.

What do you think?

Source: FOX

31 thoughts on “Public Health Expert in Georgia Sues Over Job Termination Allegedly Due To His Sermons As A Lay Minister”

  1. Paul….the guy shld have been hired bc we can’t have a litmus test. The fire chf should not have been fired unless he says let non christians burn. The girl should have got into shrink school despite not “believing” in that other stuff about ppl fiddling with rectums equals procreation. Let me be clear i am in moore’s camp….dq of someone after the fact in a profession is no different than a litmus test to get into a profession. If a christian can be an become a doctor….he cant on the back end be dq bc christian. If a christian can be a fire fighter…he cant lose his job bc he is a christian. Psychology is the first field banning christians….i dunno the litmis test must mean something. But i talk this from chistianity and hindu and whatever. While 85 percent of muslim is law and 15 percent is religion. So it is hard not to want a litmus test. Because i don’t want sharia law. But my countrymen heretofore weren’t muslim….so the litmis test is and isn’t….my countrymen can protect me from sharia law….
    Yet no litmus test to the md, fd or shrink…..only when gov is so big is this even a problem.

  2. Wait, but if members of government express open hostility to conservatives, or make racist comments about Caucasians, that is entirely acceptable?

    The rise of the fascist state of the Left…

    Liberalism is not the party it was to my grandparents. There are still many on the Left who are good people who just want to help everyone. They trust their politicians. But there is a faction rising in power and prominence that is openly fascist, intolerant, hateful…They make false promises of fixing everything through government, and when their policies lay wast to the communities who voted for them, they blame everyone but themselves. People trust them and keep voting for them. I wish they could see how intolerant and destructive this faction can be.

    My grandparents would be appalled to see these shenanigans.

  3. It’s amazing how Nick Spinelli can speak nothing of current events except through the lens of PC.

    His post’s for years have been but juvenile bravado; his former allies embarrassed by his contributions, shirking his meager utterings, ignoring his words — like a bully in a schoolyard, Nick is unaware of this and so feels compelled to sputter the same worn meanderings in an attempt of self-redemption; of justifying his own inability to argue at a more salient level — an attempt to hide his lack of cognitive coherence.

    Is that enough run on for you, Nick?

  4. Paul … right proper clauses would be the litmus test and 1st amd. What of the “religious test” in the constitution? If you have any religion you fail? Can’t be hired? Georgia is misinterpreting they fired a fire chief for his book because it wasn’ t a romance novel but “religious”…the university wont let a young woman into psych school because she doesn’t belive in homosexuality. ( like she couldnt refer or decline such cases to others in her career)… ,,other places there are guys like shilling who get canned…bc they don’t have the same values as the corp. Meanwhile corps who dont want to hire ppl without their values face nlrb eeoc….

    1. J – little confused about your last post. Are you supporting the firing or supporting the lay minister. I have already said he has a solid case on religious grounds.

  5. “A Seventh Day Adventist lay minister, Walsh spoke freely on issues like health, homosexuality, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science and creationism.” Well, depending on **how freely** he spoke on those issues, particularly in the workplace—the article notes there was “consultation with the six local boards of health which comprise the district”—maybe this jerk made it clear that his so-called “personal views” DID carry through into the workplace. Personally, I’m good with one less bigot in a position of power in government.

    1. markkernes – i gather from the article that he never got into the workplace so he was never in consultation with those six local boards. They made him a job offer but before he was to start the job, they withdrew the offer because of his religious believes.

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