The ‘religious liberty’ poster child you haven’t heard much about

In the fight over “religious liberty” legislation in the state Capitol, much of the individual attention has focused on Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta fire chief sacked by Mayor Kasim Reed after publishing a religious book that condemned homosexuality.

Far less attention has devolved Dr. Eric Walsh, a Pasadena, Cal., health department official who, last year, was about to be hired by the state Department of Public Health to run its operations in northwest Georgia.

At the last minute, videos surfaced in California of sermons that Walsh had given as a Seventh Day Adventist preacher in which he spoke against homosexuality and the “Satanic belief that man evolved from lesser beings.”

The Georgia job offer was rescinded. It’s worth noting the timing: Gov. Nathan Deal was involved in what, at the time, was believe to be a fierce re-election battle.

Last September, Walsh filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta, charging the state of Georgia with “unlawful religious discrimination” and retaliation.

One senses that, while Walsh’s case hasn’t been kept under wraps, it hasn’t been emphasized, either – perhaps out of deference to the governor, who has said nice things about religious liberty legislation that is now in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee.

But Walsh’s attorney, Jeremy Dys of the Liberty Institute, was at a state Capitol rally earlier this month. He said Walsh was in Guam, working as a medical missionary.

And a lengthy video being pushed out by supporters of S.B. 129, the surviving measure authored by state Sen. Josh McKoon, now gives Walsh a more prominent role in their argument.

I’ve posted it below, though it may not play on every browser:

Religious Freedom Restoration Act - Georgia from RedKudzu on Vimeo.

In it, at about the 21-minute mark, Walsh and his legal team show off some material we hadn’t yet seen in their action against Georgia.

Walsh says he was asked to submit four sermons that he had preached in his church. Officials in Georgia rescinded the job the next day.

Walsh also apparently recorded the phone call in which the offer was withdrawn. After the conversation, state officials apparently didn’t realize that they had failed to end the call. The video records a woman’s voice laughing and saying, “There’s no warm way to say it, anyway.”

The Pasadena Independent reports today that Walsh has reached a $96,144 settlement with the city of Pasadena.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.