|Eric Walsh, the religious right's 'religious liberty' symbol.|
In the past, the religious right has always played the "homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle" card in order to fight our advancing equality. In the wake of minds changing about the lgbt community and several high-profile losses (including in the case of marriage equality), they have shifted their argument by playing the "persecution card."
It's a simple tactic. They exploit a public incident by exaggerating it immensely and publicizing it even more (making sure to control the conversation) in order to advance an argument that the progression of lgbt equality will lead "Christians" to lose their businesses and rights if they don't kowtow regardless of their religious beliefs.
This tactic has been highly successful in cases of bakeries, florists, and even state employees who play the victim of the so-called "Gay Mafia" even as they get enriched by donations and publicity.
And now, here is another one, courtesy of our favorite alarmist personality from Fox News, Todd Starnes:
A lay minister who is suing the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination has been directed by the state’s attorney general to relinquish his sermons to the government, according to federal court documents. “Please produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or transcripts,”
Attorney General Samuel Olens wrote to attorneys representing Dr. Eric Walsh. Dr. Walsh said he will not comply with the request. “No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons,” Walsh said. “I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.”
Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist lay minister had been hired in May 2014 by as a District Health Director with the Georgia Department of Public Health. A week later, a government official asked him to submit copies of his sermons for review. He complied and two days later he was fired. His attorneys said the government was curious about sermons Dr. Walsh delivered on health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science and creationism. He also preached on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality.
And the Family Research Council is adding to the same spin:
By most standards, Dr. Eric Walsh would be considered a standout job candidate. When he was in California, he was the director of the City of Pasadena's Public Health Department and was appointed to President Obama's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs. His professional credentials showed he was going places. In 2014, he was hired by the State of Georgia's Department of Public Health. But when some state officials learned that he was also a lay minister in his church, he was investigated and quickly let go. Documents released by First Liberty Institute 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. Determined to stand for his (and others') freedom to believe, Dr. Walsh filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia, alleging unlawful religious discrimination. As part of that lawsuit, the State of Georgia issued a subpoena demanding that Dr. Walsh hand over his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral documentation -- including his Bible.
But, of course, there is more to the story than Perkins, Starnes, and no doubt the others who will repeat this mess want you to know.
First of all, Walsh had gotten into trouble at his last job as the Pasadena public health director over the same situation. The following is from the Pasadena Independent on May 1, 2014:
In sermons uploaded to various websites, Dr.Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist preacher, calls evolution “a religion created by Satan,” compares Disney to a “dark empire” of superstition and witchcraft, and censures homosexuality.
The discovery of these sermons led Walsh to be suspended from his job in Pasadena According to Project Q Atlanta, he later quit the position. It was also these sermons which led the Georgia Department of Public Health to have second thoughts about hiring him.
Frank Girardot, who was, at the time of the controversy in Pasadena, the senior editor of the San Gabriel Valley News Group, personally looked at Walsh's sermons in question. This is what he said:
I’ve listened to several hours of Walsh’s sermons. You can find them on YouTube.
Here’s some of what he believes:
• Oprah Winfrey is harboring the spirit of the anti-Christ;
• The prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, was influenced by Satan;
• The devil set up Catholicism;
• Acceptance of homosexuals is a satanic ploy to destroy America;
• Rapper Jay Z is a disciple of Satan;
• Single mothers are ruining their children;
• Disney movies, which are loaded with violence, sex and magic, are a satanic ploy to split up families;
• Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a “satanic belief”;
• The distribution of condoms to a public in need leads to higher AIDS rates;
• The pope is the anti-Christ.
Girardot also said:
How can he talk about condom distribution in the community or AIDS prevention when he believes AIDS isn’t prevented or slowed by the distribution of prophylactics? How can he talk about birth control, knowing he believes the pope is the anti-Christ? How can he allow an elder of the Muslim community to interact with a young, sick family member — as is tradition — and profess in church that the prophet Muhammad was inspired by the devil?
These questions are most likely the same ones officials at the Georgia Public Health Department asked themselves. I doubt that this is a case of anti-Christian persecution but more of a case involving trust and competency. The Georgia Public Health Department acted correctly in removing Walsh.
But now we will see how the religious right will attempt to exploit the situation.