State demands pastor turn over sermons, notes

By Bob Unruh

Dr. Eric Walsh (Photo: First Liberty)
Dr. Eric Walsh (Photo: First Liberty)

The state of Georgia is demanding copies of the sermons and related notes of a lay pastor who was fired by the Department of Public Health after it investigated what he said in his church.

But Dr. Eric Walsh is resisting, issuing a statement via his legal team that he will not comply with the demand from state lawyers.

The state’s demand is in response to a lawsuit filed by Walsh against the Department of Health charging discrimination based on his religion and other civil rights violations.

He’s getting support from a pastor who successfully fought off a demand by Houston officials for copies of his sermons.

Walsh’s ordeal began in May 2014 when he accepted an offer to become district health director with the state agency. Only a week later, a state official asked him to provide copies of sermons he had preached as a lay minister with a Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Lee Rudd, the agency’s human resources director, then assigned staff members to listen to the YouTube recordings immediately. Two days later, Walsh was fired.

At that point, lawyers with First Liberty Institute joined forces with the Atlanta legal team of Parks, Chesin & Walbert to file a federal lawsuit against the state agency.

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Now, in response to Walsh’s lawsuit, the state has delivered a “Request for Production of Documents” that demands once again, among a flood of other paperwork, “copies of his sermon notes and transcripts.”

“This is an excessive display of the government overreaching its authority and violating the sanctity of the church,” said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty.

“No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons,” said Walsh in a statement released by his lawyers. “I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.”

Officials with the Georgia Department of Health declined to respond to a WND request for comment, instead referring a reporter to the state attorney general, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Walsh’s lawyers scheduled a news conference as a display of support.

On the guest list was Pastor Dave Welch of Houston, one of five pastors whose sermons were demanded by a lesbian mayor during her campaign to establish protections for her sexual preferences in city code.

WND broke the story when the city launched its action against the pastors and also reported when Rush Limbaugh described Parker’s actions as possibly “one of the most vile, filthy, blatant violations of the Constitution that I have seen.”

The mayor at the time, Annise Parker, withdrew the demands amid a flood of protest.

In a prepared statement Wednesday on Walsh’s case, Welch said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Georgia’s demand is even worse than when the mayor of Houston demanded 17 different categories of materials, including sermons, from … us.”

Welch, the executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, said what is happening to Walsh is “worse than what happened in Houston for multiple reasons.”

“First, this is state government coming after a pastor, not just a rogue mayor in one city,” he said. “Also, the state is demanding much more material: sermons, sermon notes, all documents without even topical or time limits. It could even include margin notes in this pastor’s preaching Bible. It’s almost as if they are ransacking the pastor’s study. This sweeping demand is ominous and a threat to every pastor, every church, every denomination, and every citizen of faith in America.”

Leaders of Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, part of the nation’s largest public policy women’s group with 500,000 members, also came to Walsh’s defense.

Penny Nance, CEO, said: “The words of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ still reverberate today – especially as we witness the ‘Gestapo-like’ tactics of his native state. The state of Georgia’s blatant attack on religious freedom, as they discriminate against another pastor, Dr. Eric Walsh, is indeed a threat to every American, whatever our religious beliefs.

“Can there be a clearer violation of our First Amendment right to religious freedom than for the state to monitor, examine, and retaliate against a person because of the sermons they share?”

WND reported earlier on the case brought against the state after its officials reviewed Walsh’s sermons and then fired him.

“No one in this country should be fired from their job for something that was said in a church or from a pulpit during a sermon,” Dys told Fox News when the case was filed. “He was fired for something he said in a sermon. If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything.”

The original state investigation of Walsh’s sermons apparently was sparked by “one complaint” from an official with a county Democratic Party and “gay activist.”

State officials also joked about informing Walsh of his firing.

The telephone call was between Dr. Patrick O’Neal, an agency official, and Kate Pfirman, an agency financial officer. The call was captured on an answering machine, which also caught their conversation after they thought they had hung up.

Pfirman said: “And I’m gonna be very – I’m gonna try to come off as very cold, because I don’t want to say very much. If I try to make it warm – I’ve thought that through, it’s gonna just not – there’s no warm way to say it anyway.”

Then there was laughter from both parties.

O’Neal then said to inform Walsh, “You’re out,” and there was another round of laughter.

“It’s very funny,” Pfirman said.

The voicemail:

[jwplayer ugIPBc84]

In the Houston dispute, voters ultimately soundly rejected Parker’s ordinance giving “gays” and transgendered people special rights.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” chronicles how America has arrived at the point of being a de facto police state, and what led to an out-of-control government that increasingly ignores the Constitution. Order today!


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