Dr. Eric Walsh

Yesterday morning hate group leader Tony Perkins started his advocacy for Eric Walsh. Last night I received two more emails — one with a link to an error-filled blog post in support of Walsh.

In the way of background, in 2014 Walsh was forced to resign from his position as health director of Pasadena, CA when copies of sermons surfaced showing that Walsh claimed that the pope was the Anti-Christ and that Catholicism was created by the devil. Walsh also condemned gay people and the theory of evolution. A whole lot of people are apparently agents of Satan in Walsh’s view. The day prior to his resignation from Pasadena Walsh received an offer from Georgia to be a district health director. The offer was rescinded due to those same sermons. Walsh sued. Georgia’s lawyers have subpoenaed copies of his sermons and his bible. Perkins feigns extreme outrage.

The second e-mail is titled “They’re going after his Bible.” Oh my. According to Tony Perkins:

Determined to stand for his (and others’) freedom to believe, Dr. Walsh filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia, alleging unlawful religious discrimination. As part of that lawsuit, the State of Georgia issued a subpoena demanding that Dr. Walsh hand over his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral documentation — including his Bible.

Apparently, not even the margin notes of a Christian’s Bible are off limits from the government’s intimidation machine.

Oh bullshit. Walsh sued because he could not get a job. Walsh turned an employment controversy into religious discrimination because that is his only path to a ruling in his favor. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, national origin, race, color, or sex. However, social and political philosophy as well as personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII. The courts have generally held that religion typically concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death.”

Walsh’s notion that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a “satanic belief” does not seem to fit. He also opposes condoms as a means of reducing the transmission of AIDS. That probably conflicts with Georgia’s policy. How could he do his job when gay or Catholic co-workers and subordinates know that he is anti-Catholic and anti-gay? Nevertheless, the state could easily lose this case. It is a very close call.

The subpoena of sermons and Walsh’s bible have nothing to do with intimidation. They are at the core of Walsh’s suit and the state’s defense.

The third email leads to a FRC blog post by Tony Perkins. This makes an entirely different argument.

Sound familiar? It should. This is exactly the totalitarian tactic that Texas Mayor Annise Parker took toward the “Houston Five,” a group of ethnically diverse pastors who’d been preaching against the transgender bathroom ordinance she forced on the city. Desperate to silence her chorus of critics, she subpoenaed 17 forms of communication from area pastors as a tool of intimidation, despite the fact that these five pastors were never part of the lawsuit!

“Houston 5” is an obnoxious pretension of persecution. Of course Parker had nothing to do with this. Everything that people did not like was assigned to then Mayor Parker because she is a lesbian. These subpoenas (which were ultimately withdrawn) were issued by the city’s lawyers in response to a lawsuit that the pastors launched against the city. Those pastors were the plaintiffs so Perkins seems to be in error.

More importantly those sermons and other materials in Houston were tangential to the case. At the time I thought that the judge hearing the case would quash those subpoenas. It was good lawyering but not appropriate for a municipality. Walsh’s case is different. These sermons are at the core of the case to allow the state’s lawyers to separate religious beliefs from personal preferences.

Apparently, leaders in Georgia didn’t learn anything from Parker’s
downfall and seem intent on starting their own holy war over religious
liberty. “Please produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or
transcripts,” Attorney General Samuel Olens wrote to attorneys
representing Dr. Walsh. He refused, explaining, “No government has the
right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons. I cannot and will
not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.” Today, at a press
conference at the Georgia State Capitol, First Liberty, Pastor Dave
Welch of the Houston Five, and FRC’s own Travis Weber stood with Dr.
Walsh and called on Georgia leaders to withdraw their demand. “The state
insists that it did not fire Dr. Walsh over his religious beliefs or
sermons. If that’s true, why is it demanding copies of his sermons now?”

Therefore a judge will shortly resolve this controversy. Trying to tie this to Governor Deal personally and making comparisons to Houston are just noise. Among other errors in this post, Perkins claims that Walsh was fired. He was not — an offer was rescinded. Perkins also claims that Walsh was hired as the state’s director of public health. In fact, Walsh was hired as a district director. He continues:

“This action against Dr. Walsh is another unjust assault on people of faith, including the pulpit itself,” Travis told reporters. “We support Dr. Walsh in his resistance and call upon the Georgia government to act according to the law and traditions of our country, which respect people of faith and the autonomy of the church.”

I know. Every Christian is a victim of Georgia’s decision not to employ an utter crackpot. As I said, this case is a close call. Judges err on the side of religious belief. However most Christians do not subscribe to the crazy beliefs of Eric Walsh. That’s not a valid legal argument (beliefs do not have to be generally accepted). However, no one — no religion — is being persecuted. Nevertheless, Perkins exhales persecution and inhales contributions.

Of course, the sad irony in all of this is that Georgia had an opportunity to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to stop the government from punishing men and women of faith. Extremists sank the bill, with the help of Governor Deal, who refused to lift a finger to protect religious expression. Now, Governor Deal has an opportunity to make some amends — by using his authority to correct the state’s overreach into church affairs like Dr. Walsh’s. Join us in calling on him to end the targeting of the pulpit by signing our petition here!

If there is a sad irony it is the disparate treatment of LGBT citizens when protected from discrimination by law. Mr. Perkins has a very different view about those cases. Three years ago, on that same blog, is this headline: “Baker Faces Prison for Refusing to Bake Same-Sex Wedding Cake.” You get the idea. Just in passing, why is Perkins at ease with someone who believes that another group of Christians are the devil’s disciples?

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.