by Paul Dupont
Although we may still be a few days from Halloween, the Georgia state government is certainly doing its best to frighten religious believers.
The target in this instance is Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh Day Adventist lay minister who was hired by the Georgia government in 2014 as a state health official. Walsh was by any measure eminently qualified for the job. Shortly after accepting the position, however, a spooky series of events took place:
First Liberty said Walsh was hired as a district health director on May 7, 2014. A few days later, DPH officers and other government workers began investigating his religious activities.
“DPH officers and other employees spent hours reviewing these and other of Dr. Walsh’s sermons and other public addresses available online, analyzing and taking notes on his religious beliefs and viewpoints on social, cultural and other matters of public concern as expressed in the sermons and other public addresses,” the lawsuit states.
The behavior of the DPH was so egregious that its own counsel twice warned them on May 15 that “under federal law Dr. Walsh’s religious beliefs could play no role in any employment decision by DPH.”
But on May 16, the DPH announced it had rescinded the job offer that Dr. Walsh had already accepted.
Dr. Walsh, of course, immediately filed suit against the Georgia government, accusing them of engaging in religious discrimination. But then, things got even scarier:
On September 28, in the process of building their legal case against Walsh, the State of Georgia served a Request for Production of Documents on Walsh, which requires Walsh to surrender copies of his sermon notes and transcripts. The request carries the same force of law as a subpoena. …
“The government is demanding that a pastor hand over copies of all of his sermons, including notes and transcripts, without limitation,” Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty says. “This is an excessive display of the government overreaching its authority and violating the sanctity of the church.”
Readers following this issue may recall that the city of Houston attempted a similar maneuver two years ago after a number of pastors spoke up to protest the city’s ordinance allowing biological males to use women’s public facilities. After a large public outcry, Houston’s mayor eventually relented and withdrew the subpoenas.
Now, however, government officials are at it again, intimidating a religious minister over his beliefs — something we have seen play out in other states this year as well in blatant disregard of the First Amendment.
It’s a tale more terrifying than any Halloween ghost story — and one that is, unfortunately, all too real.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.