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State of Georgia Demands Pastor's Sermon Notes

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Dr. Eric Walsh talks with CBN News about his case and why he is refusing to hand over his sermon notes.

A Georgia pastor is refusing to hand over copies of his sermons to the state. It's the second time in two years that public officials have made such a demand of Dr. Eric Walsh.

Walsh, a lay pastor and former district health director with the Georgia Department of Public Health, is suing the department in a religious discrimination case that centers on his employment termination in 2014.

Walsh says that a week after he began working at the department in 2014, a DPH official asked him for copies of sermons he had preached as a lay minister with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Two days later the department fired him.  

Now, the Georgia Department of Public Health is once again demanding copies of Walsh's sermon notes as part of proceedings for the lawsuit but Walsh is refusing.

"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's attorney, Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute, says: "This is an excessive display of the government overreaching its authority and violating the sanctity of the church."

It's not the first time that government authorities have demanded sermon notes in recent years. Last year in Houston, Mayor Annise Parker's administration subpoenaed a group of pastors' sermons. The pastors were suing the city for invalidating a signature drive intended to place a bathroom ordinance repeal measure on the ballot.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and other faith leaders defended the pastors.

The courts eventually approved their signatures, allowing the measure on the ballot. Houstonians defeated the bathroom ordinance on Nov. 3, 2015.

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim