Last year Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a reasonable bill to defend religious freedom in Georgia. He knew about instances of Georgia government leaders making decisions relying on political correctness instead of the law.
Early in Governor Deal’s administration, the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources ordered that all Gideon Bibles be removed from the hotel rooms of state park lodges and hotels. Governor Deal, himself, had to step in to overturn that foolish decision.
Now, the State of Georgia is entangled in a federal discrimination lawsuit. The suit was filed by an African American former District Health Director for the Department of Public Health in 2014.
Dr. Eric Walsh came with stellar commendations from his position in California. He happens to be a 7th Day Adventist lay minister.
One week after he started work, he was asked by officials in Public Health to provide copies of his sermons. He complied and two days later was fired.
Dr. Walsh rightfully filed suit against the State for discrimination. Now, according to an article by Todd Starnes of Fox News, Sam Olens, while Attorney General of Georgia demanded that Dr. Walsh “produce a copy of your sermon notes and/or transcripts.”
We citizens are paying the bill to try to defend Georgia bureaucrats who have run amok in their maniacal ignorance of religious freedom. It might take a high school understanding to know that Article 6 of the Constitution says, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Article 6 may be too deep for such great minds in our state bureacracy. Anyone with a 5th grade understanding of civics knows that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What part of that does the Public Health Department not understand? Dr. Walsh’s religious beliefs, his sermon notes, his transcripts of sermons, his studies of religious books (even if it were the Koran or Wican) have nothing to do with how he serves as an employee of the State Department of Public Health. Frankly it is none of their business.
The fact that they asked for the sermons and then fired him two days later makes it virtually impossible to justify the firing, even if it were for a valid reason. Now that Sam Olens formally demanded notes and transcripts of sermons, it makes the case even more impossible to defend.
This is nothing less than gross negligence and incompetence on the part of the officials in the Department of Public Health. The Commissioner should have ended this and reinstated Dr. Walsh with back pay as soon as it reached her desk.
The Commissioner, like many other high level government employees, apparently listened to the ignorant voices of political correctness from her advisers. The Commissioner answers to the Board of Public Health.
The members of the Board are appointed by the Governor. They set the policy and hire the commissioner. Oh, that there would be just one Board member with common sense and enough courage to call the Commissioner and ask two simple questions. “Why?” “What is your basis?”
Apparently no one wanted to rock the boat. Apparently they hoped the problem would disappear. It will not disappear and it should not disappear.
The religious beliefs of a public employee have zero play in whether or not that employee can exercise the duties of the office. A Muslim, Jew, or 7th Day Adventist (they hold to Old Testament dietary rules) can still be the health inspector of the Dooly County Big Pig Jig to assure that pork BBQ served to the public meets state health standards.
We tax payers are going to be hit with either a large and quiet settlement or a huge jury verdict along with astronomical legal bills. Why are the Department of Public Health, Attorney General, and Governor (yes he has known about this for quite some time) digging their heels in over such an indefensible position?
This is all the more reason for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be brought up again. I believe that our politicians are going to get a jolt when the election returns start coming in. Maybe then they will start paying more attention to “We the People” than they do the politically correct lobbyists.
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The Georgia Ballot will have four amendments to the Constitution. You can read my take and how I will vote on the Amendments at the link below: