A Georgia minister is refusing an order from officials in that state that he turn over his sermons for officials to review.
According to Fox News, Dr. Eric Walsh, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, was ordered by the Georgia Attorney General’s office to turn over his sermon notes and transcripts. The demand comes in connection to a lawsuit Walsh filed against the state, in which he alleges religious discrimination played a part in his termination from a position with the Georgia Department of Health.
“No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons,” Walsh said in an Oct. 26 statement released by First Liberty, a non-profit law firm which seeks to “protect religious freedom for all Americans” and represents Walsh. “I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so.”
Walsh was hired as a district director by the Georgia Department of Health in 2014, according to conservative news website The Daily Caller. But one week after his employment began, Health Department officials sought to review the content of his sermons. He was fired two days later, according to his attorneys.
According to The Christian Post, a nondenominational, Evangelical Christian media outlet, Walsh’s conservative views on marriage came to the attention of Georgia Health Department officials following protests from LGBT activists over Walsh’s selection as a commencement speaker at Pasadena City College.
In response to his termination, Walsh filed a federal lawsuit in April via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging religious discrimination in his hiring. The EEOC approved the lawsuit, which is proceeding in Atlanta federal court.
As part of that case, Walsh’s attorneys said the state filed a Request for the Production of Documents on Sept. 28 which demanded he turn over documents relating to his service as a pastor and copies of his sermon notes and transcripts. (Read the full document.)
“The government is demanding that a pastor hand over copies of all of his sermons, including notes and transcripts, without limitation,” Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty, said in a statement. “This is an excessive display of the government overreaching its authority and violating the sanctity of the church.”