Dr. Eric Walsh Sues Georgia Dept. of Public Health

Dr. Eric Walsh filed suit in federal court Wednesday against the Georgia Department of Public Health.  The suit is based upon that fact that in May, 2014, the GDPH had offered Dr. Walsh a job, and Walsh had accepted, but GDPH rescinded its offer based upon its review of sermons Walsh had delivered in his capacity as associate pastor of the Altadena, Seventh-day Adventist Church, a black congregation in southern California.  This is religious discrimination and an illegal employment practice under 41 U.S.C. 2000e-2.  Dr. Walsh has a medical degree and also a Master of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University, so he is superbly qualified for his chosen field of public health.  Those Georgia officials who interviewed Dr. Walsh found him, on the whole, exceptionally well qualified for the position.

The Pasadena Lynch Mob

Most of our readers will recall that Dr. Walsh was the Public Health Director for the City of Pasadena, California, as well as an associate pastor at the Altadena SDA Church, when he was asked to deliver the commencement address at Pasadena City College after the Board of Regents discovered that their first choice, gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, could be viewed on the Internet in compromising positions with his boyfriend. A group calling itself “Students for Social Justice” began poring over Dr. Walsh's uploaded sermons, and found that he had called homosexuality a sin, Darwinism a Satanic belief, and stated that Muhammad had been influenced by Satan to found the Islamic religion. 

Despite the fact that Dr. Walsh had shown absolutely no hint of bias against homosexual residents of Pasadena, and had even established a free dental clinic for HIV-positive patients, Pasadena city officials yielded to the thugs and fired Dr. Walsh. 

Hired in Georgia, but then Fired over his Sermons

Dr. Walsh then applied for a public health position covering three counties in rural Georgia.  Officials there interviewed him, noted his superb credentials, and offered him the job.  However, news of the uproar in California soon reached Georgia, and officials later rescinded the offer. 

In several news stories, Georgia officials are claiming that they rescinded the offer because Dr. Walsh did not tell the City of Pasadena that he was moonlighting as an associate pastor at Altadena.  But overwhelming evidence shows that this claim is pretextual and false.  The email trail collected by Dr. Walsh’s attorneys demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the offer of employment to Dr. Walsh was rescinded because of his Altadena sermons.

An email dated May 14, from Lee Rudd to two others clearly demonstrates that Georgia officials not only knew about the sermons but listened to them, as well:

“OK … I have an assignment for several of us.  We have to listen to his sermons on You Tube tonight.  If we take a couple of hours each, then we should cover our bases.  I will enlist Dwana to help us.  Kate is going to listen to them as well. 

Another email sends out 10 email links to sermons on YouTube, and another email from Rudd states:

“I send [sic] a list out . . . we need to listen vary [sic] carefully and make notes . . . Don’t want this stuff taken out of context but want to be clear.”

An email dated May 15, from Dr. Walsh to someone at GDPH indicates that Walsh himself sent links of the four most controversial sermons to the Georgia officials.

An email from Lee Rudd to Bob Shaw and Kimberly Stringer, dated May 16, 2014, states:

“I just took a constituent call from someone that [sic] was very upset about our hiring of Dr. Eric Walsh for the DHD position.  They cited news stories on WSB (Channel 2) and YouTube videos of Dr. Walsh preaching (he is a minister).  Specifically that “gay people are damned." . . . The constituent [Ken Ragan] indicated they are the co-chair of the county Democratic Party and a gay activist and he will arrange protests if we hire Dr. Walsh.”

As Dr. Walsh’s attorney stated in a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Georgia Department of Public Health “would have the EEOC believe that it spent hours combing through Dr. Walsh’s sermons and then, the day after reviewing those sermons, terminated Dr. Walsh solely because of an obscure form he submitted to his former employer.”

Clearly, the contention that Georgia fired Walsh for any reason other than the controversy over Walsh's sermons is utterly without merit. 

Media Commentary

Here’s part of what David French at National Review had to say about Dr. Walsh:

“Walsh, a former member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, had accepted a job in Georgia as a district health director when Georgia officials became aware that he’d delivered a number of ‘controversial’ sermons on his own time — sermons where he articulated orthodox Seventh-day Adventist positions on, among other things, human sexuality, Islam, evolution, and the corrupting influence of pop culture.”

Yes, exactly!  Dr. Walsh was articulating orthodox Seventh-day Adventist positions.  As a FaceBook meme might express it, “THAT AWKWARD MOMENT when you realize that National Review, founded by Roman Catholic William F. Buckley, Jr., understands Seventh-day Adventist doctrine better than Larry Caviness and Betty Cooney at the Southern California Conference (or Pacific Union spokesman Gerry Chudleigh, or GC lawyer Todd McFarland, or whoever gave the SCC its marching orders to defenestrate Dr. Walsh)."

Not everyone at the Georgia Dept of Public Health was opposed to hiring Dr. Walsh.  As Fox news reports, one staffer stated:

“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 wrote in a document obtained by First Liberty through a FOIA request.

“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,” the staffer concluded.

Adventist Reaction

As far as I am aware, there has been no comment from any official source in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, or from any official Adventist publication, since the Southern California Conference so disgracefully disassociated itself from Dr. Walsh in May, 2014.  Unofficially, the church is extremely divided on this issue.  The reaction to the original events two years ago was very telling.

The Adventist far Left, as represented by Spectrum, agrees totally with the gay mob and with the City of Pasadena and the GDPH that any person who believes--and publicly states--that homosexual conduct is sinful should be disqualified from public sector employment, as well as from any high-profile private sector employment.  These "Adventists" do not believe that homosexual conduct is sinful, and ceaselessly agitate to normalize homosexuality with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, so they are very consistent.

More dismaying to me, however, was the reaction of theologically conservative Adventists whose hermeneutic forced them to concede that homosexual conduct is sinful, but who did not believe Dr. Walsh was being persecuted--as though effectively barring him from the profession he chose and trained for is not persecution.  Part of this reaction may be attributable to the fact that we have always expected persecution over the Sabbath, but not over other issues.  These folks need to realize, however, that there is a spectrum of persecution, and barring certain races or religions from important professions is a precursor to even more drastic persecution.  Between 1933 and 1939, the Nazis barred Jews from progressively more and more professions. These measure were a precursor to rounding up Jews and placing them in concentration camps, and eventually committing genocide against them.

To be blunt, part of this is political: one political party is more closely associated with the gay rights movement than the other, and the party most closely associated with it does not want to admit that the gay rights movement has turned surly, intrusive, and repressive.  As David French notes:

"The Left used to say that it wasn’t concerned with Christian speech in houses of worship. Instead, it was only focused on “ending discrimination.” But now the Left is the discriminator, seeking to purge vocal Christians from public life. Now, even sermons are not safe from government scrutiny, and a man who’s never been accused of workplace discrimination finds himself unable to find a job in the public-health sector."