His religion caused state to rescind job offer, man claims

WSB-TV reporter Richard Elliot contributed to this report.

A man who claims that the state Public Health Department rescinded a job offer once it learned of his religious beliefs – in recorded sermons online he said homosexuality is a sin and evolution is a “religion created by Satan” – filed a complaint Tuesday with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta.

Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh Day Adventist preacher, says the health department offered him a job as a director of a North Georgia region, sending him a welcoming letter, and then took the offer back.

“I was shocked at what happened,” Walsh said during a press conference in Atlanta Tuesday. “Quite frankly, I didn’t know in the United States of America that something like this could happen when your work record is stellar.”

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Public Health Department spokesman Ryan Deal said the state “withdrew Dr. Eric Walsh’s conditional offer of employment in May 2014 for reasons entirely unrelated to his beliefs. DPH will respond to the EEOC complaint as soon as possible.”

The department acknowledged in May that it offered offered Walsh a job as director of a district including the counties of Cherokee, Pickens, Whitfield, Murray, Fannin and Gilmer. But Deal said at the time the offer was contingent upon a background check.

The Los Angeles Times reported in May that Walsh resigned from his job as public health director in Pasadena, Calif., two days before Georgia rescinded its job offer. Pasadena City College students found videos of his sermons online after Walsh was named to replace the college’s commencement speaker, an openly gay screenwriter. The students shared Walsh’s statements with the media, and Walsh canceled his appearance as speaker. The screenwriter ended up giving the speech, the Times said.

Lee Parks, Walsh’s attorney, said Walsh also plans to file a civil rights suit against the state.

“You don’t have to agree with what he says, but you have to agree that he has the right to say it,” Parks said.