A pastor that claimed homosexuality is "from the pits of hell" and should be considered a mental disorder is receiving $225,000 from Georgia to settle a federal lawsuit that he was fired for his religious beliefs.

Attorneys for Eric Walsh (top photo) announced the settlement on Thursday, ending a legal battle that started in April when Walsh sued the state in federal court. Walsh alleged officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health engaged in religious discrimination by rescinding a job offer in May 2014 after learning about his sermons. The lawsuit sought Walsh's reinstatement, lost earnings and monetary damages. 

The health agency offered Walsh a position as a district health director in North Georgia with a salary of $150,000 pending verification of his education and a background investigation. Walsh's sermons as a Seventh Day Adventist minister surfaced and the Georgia health agency launched an investigation and quickly withdrew its job offer.

Walsh claimed he was the victim of religious discrimination. The state agency said it didn't hire Walsh after discovering he failed to disclose his outside employment as a pastor.

On Thursday, Walsh and his attorneys with Liberty Institute took a victory lap.

“I am relieved to see this ordeal end and have my name cleared,” Walsh said in a prepared statement. “It has been a long, difficult journey, but I hope this positive outcome will encourage other public employees that they have religious freedom.” 

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, called the settlement a "clear victory."

“This is a clear and resounding victory for religious freedom,” Dys said. “The State of Georgia was right to settle this case and acknowledge the right of their employees to express their religious beliefs. Dr. Walsh is a man of courage and conviction who suffered a serious injustice. It has been a privilege to represent him.”

The settlement includes $150,000 from the state Department of Public Health and $75,000 from the state Department of Administrative Services.

'Ugly episode'

 

State Sen. Josh McKoon (second photo) cited Walsh's case on Jan. 11 during a speech from the Senate floor in his push for anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation. On Friday, he said Walsh was persecuted by the state government.

"Yesterday marked the end of a fairly ugly episode in our state government's history and that was the persecution of Dr. Eric Walsh," McKoon said during a Senate speech. "Dr. Walsh was being persecuted for things that he said literally from the pulpit of his church."

McKoon said Walsh lost the job over his religious beliefs. He also offered an apology on behalf of state government.

"All I want to do is something that as far as I can tell no other representative of state government is willing to do and that is to offer my sincere and heartfelt apology to Dr. Walsh and his family for the callous and terrible way they were treated for the crime of having religious faith," McKoon said.

Walsh has offered incendiary comments on homosexuality and HIV, some of which run counter to accepted medical standards.

In "Sex, Lies and the Fight for Purity," Walsh condemns decisions by psychiatric and psychological groups for decades ago declassifying homosexuality as a mental illness. The video has since been removed from YouTube.

"It was because people who claim to be psychologists and scientists who are raised up by the enemy, and I don't have time to go into that tonight, but the devil raises up these 'great minds' like Freud and Darwin, raised up by the enemy to create philosophies and ideas that war against the principles of God," Walsh says in the video clip above.

Later in the hour-long sermon, he preaches that if "God's plan was followed, there would be no AIDS epidemic."

In a 2006 sermon, Walsh condemned schools for teaching that homosexuality is acceptable, a doctrine he claims to be "from the pits of hell."

[AJC]