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State of Georgia's $225,000 Payout to Pastor a Victory for Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Family Research Council (FRC) is pleased to learn the news that First Liberty Institute has reached a settlement agreement between the State of Georgia and its client, Dr. Eric Walsh. First Liberty reported that the State of Georgia agreed to pay $225,000 to settle Dr. Walsh’s religious discrimination lawsuit.
Dr. Eric Walsh was one of the nation's leading health administrators until being fired in 2014 by the Georgia Department of Public Health. A lay minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Walsh was fired after Georgia officials learned of his faith. Documents released by First Liberty include emails showing that Georgia officials assigned employees to examine his sermons on YouTube—sermons dealing with common Christian themes including creation, compassion, spiritual growth, the family, and Christian living. He was fired after this examination of his religious beliefs.
The lawsuit drew national attention last fall after the State of Georgia issued a legal demand that Dr. Eric Walsh, a lay pastor, hand over his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral documentation including his Bible. The state withdrew the demand after public pushback. As part of this effort, Travis Weber, Family Research Council’s Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, appeared at a news conference calling out the State for this behavior. FRC gathered more than 40,000 petitions calling on Governor Nathan Deal to "correct this egregious overreach of the state into church affairs."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:
“This is a just conclusion in a case that I would have expected to see in a totalitarian, Soviet-era communist country, not America. The government not only scrutinized Dr. Walsh for his Christian beliefs -- but used those beliefs against him in terminating his employment with the Georgia Department of Public Health. That’s not only unconstitutional -- it’s un-American.
“Fortunately, the state finally realized as much and decided to settle before its intolerance was made even more visible and painful as this case wound its way through the courts. Now, months into his legal battle, Dr. Walsh can finally celebrate.
“This settlement is a victory for religious freedom and the common sense principle that the pulpit is to be governed only by the Word of God. Government scrutiny of speech in the pulpit is unconstitutional, and unconscionable.
“Family Research Council was pleased to stand with Dr. Walsh, and will do so for any pastor who is targeted by the government because of what is said in the pulpit,” concluded Perkins.
Read more about the case at FirstLiberty.org/Walsh
Watch the news conference in support of Dr. Walsh.