First Liberty Briefing: State of Georgia Asked Lay Minister and Public Health Official for Copies of his Sermons

First Liberty Briefing: State of Georgia Asked Lay Minister and Public Health Official for Copies of his Sermons March 28, 2017

Dr. Walsh, a lay minister and public health expert applied for the District Health Director position for the State of Georgia. After he was hired, something strange happened. Learn how First Liberty won the lawsuit against the state and defended Dr. Walsh’s religious liberty rights at

Thank you for joining us for the First Liberty Briefing, an exclusive podcast where host Jeremy Dys—also First Liberty Senior Counsel—provides an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.

State of Georgia demanded a pastor turn over his sermons
Image: Keith Birmingham

Dr. Eric Walsh was a leader in the field of Public Health. He had a Medical Degree and a Doctorate in Public Health. He served two Presidents on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS; and even started a publicly funded dental clinic for HIV / AIDS patients in the state of California.

When he applied to be the District Health Director for the state of Georgia, his interviewers were deeply impressed. In fact, one interviewer lobbied the State Commissioner to find more money in the budget to pay Dr. Walsh.

After he was hired, something strange happened.

Dr. Walsh is also a lay-minister. His new employers asked him for copies of his sermons and then went online to find them on their own. They then divided up his sermons; and a few days later, Dr. Walsh was fired.

It is illegal to fire someone for something that they said at their pulpit. But that didn’t stop the State of Georgia. After First Liberty sued the State, the Attorney General’s office asked him to turn over all of his sermon notes and transcripts – all of them!

Dr. Walsh rightly refused this burdensome request.

Well, a few weeks later, for firing a pastor for something that he had said at his pulpit, the State of Georgia agreed to settle our lawsuit for $225,000.

Dr. Walsh did not go looking for a fight, but he knew that his part in protecting religious liberty meant holding Georgia accountable

To learn how First Liberty is protecting Religious Liberty for all Americans, visit

First Liberty Institute is the largest organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. Find out more here.

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