A Christian doctor who accused the Georgia Department of Public Health of religious discrimination in 2014 because he was denied a position after delivering sermons criticizing homosexuality, evolution and Catholicism is now suing.
According to a report from National Review, Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh Day Adventist preacher and public health expert with multiple advanced degrees who served on President Obama's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs, has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against the State of Georgia, alleging religious discrimination over the claim that he was fired due to the contents of past sermons.
Walsh contends he accepted a job on May 5, 2014, as a district health director with the state agency, but officials abruptly decided to rescind that offer just days later
A statement released by the First Liberty Institute, which is representing Walsh in the suit along with Atlanta law firm Parks, Chesin & Walbert, claims that one week after the pastor accepted the position with the state's department of public health, "officials requested copies of sermons he had preached as a lay minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church."
The subjects of those sermons, according to a statement, were: "following God, having compassion on the poor, health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science, creationism, and more."
"I couldn't believe they fired me because of things I talked about in my sermons," Walsh said, according to a press release. "It was devastating."
"I don't believe I did anything wrong," he later told Fox News contributor Todd Starnes. "This has been very painful for me. I really am a strong believer in the Constitution. But now I feel like maybe all these ideals and values that I was raised to believe - the ideals they country was founded upon - no longer exist."
In turn, the department says Walsh's religious views had nothing to do with their decision to withdraw the offer.
"Georgia Department of Public Health policy requires the disclosure and written approval of secondary employment held by its employees," the department said in a statement released Wednesday in response to the suit.
"Dr. Walsh was extended a conditional offer of employment by DPH, subject to passing a routine background check," the statement said. "During the background check process, DPH learned Walsh failed to disclose outside employment to his previous public health employer, which also was in violation of California law.
"Due to violation of both California state law and DPH policy, the offer to Dr. Walsh was rescinded. During his interview, Dr. Walsh disclosed his religious beliefs to DPH staff and indicated that he preached at his church in California. Dr. Walsh's religious beliefs had nothing to do with the decision to withdraw the offer."
However, in a statement released Thursday, First Liberty accused DPH of attempting to "manipulate" the facts and restated the order of events: "The facts are these: after hiring Dr. Walsh, the Georgia Department of Public Health investigated Dr. Walsh's sermons, took issue with the beliefs he expressed in them, and fired him," reads the statement. "On May 14, the DPH asked him to submit copies of his sermons, and assigned multiple sermons to various employees to review. On May 15, they held a meeting to discuss the content of the sermons and his employment at DPH. On May 16, they terminated Dr. Walsh from his employment. The DPH's position on Dr. Walsh was made clear when the DPH Chief of Staff communicated to Dr. Walsh on a phone call that he couldn't 'preach that' and work in the public health field."
It adds, "The State of Georgia cannot now manipulate the facts to cover up the cold, hard reality - they fired Dr. Walsh for what he said in his sermons. No American should be fired for what they say in church."
First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys told Fox News that Dr. Walsh's case sets a "chilling" precedent: "He was fired for something he said in a sermon," he said. "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 idea of those government employees dividing up the sermons is unthinkable," he added. "Religious liberty means we should be able to find sanctuary in our own sanctuary."