Georgia health department retracts job offer to anti-gay pastor

The Georgia Department of Public Health today withdrew its job offer to Dr. Eric Walsh, an anti-gay pastor who was a health director in Pasadena.

“The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has retracted the conditional offer of employment to Dr. Eric Walsh for the position of District Health Director of the North Georgia Health District. Today’s action by the Department follows a thorough examination of Dr. Walsh’s credentials and background as well as consultation with the six local Boards of Health which comprise the district,” said DPH spokesperson Ryan Deal in a statement.

Walsh resigned from his job as Pasadena Health Director Thursday after backlash in his home state of California after video sermons surfaced of him preaching against homosexuals as well as Catholics and Muslims.

On Thursday, the Health Initiative, an LGBT organization, and also the spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia, demanded the DPH rescind the job offer to Walsh, stating concerns for his public anti-LGBT stances.

Walsh, who was Pasadena’s Public Health Director, was put on paid administrative leave on May 1 after “recorded sermons surfaced online in which he makes discriminatory remarks about homosexuals, Muslims, Catholics, popular culture icons and other groups. Walsh is an associate pastor at the Altadena Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

One of the anti-gay statements included Walsh saying gay people’s sexuality comes from the “pits of hell.”

“The sermons surfaced after Walsh was invited to speak at the commencement for Pasadena City College, following a scandal in which Oscar-winning screenwriter and gay-rights advocate Dustin Lance Black was uninvited from the ceremony. Walsh ultimately backed out, and Black spoke at the commencement on Friday,” the newspaper reported.

Backlash against Walsh in California has been swift by LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations, but also by religious organizations.

Ryan Deal, spokesperson for the Georgia Public Health Department, told the GA Voice earlier this week that, “Dr. Walsh has been offered the position of District Public Health Director within the North Georgia Health District, contingent upon the results of a background and credentials investigation. Currently that investigation is ongoing and is not complete.”

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation based in Los Angeles announced its despair with the apparent hiring of Walsh by Georgia’s Public Health Department.

“Dr. Walsh’s repugnant remarks are incompatible with an effective public health leader,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in a statement. “It is a disgrace to the public health response in Georgia, a state fighting a growing HIV epidemic in which too many people are already afraid to seek lifesaving care because of fear and stigma.”

Tim Webb, an Atlanta-based HIV activist who works with AHF, added, “HIV stigma and homophobia have no place in our state health department. By bringing on someone with Dr. Walsh’s views on homosexuality, the state is telling gay men, ‘We don’t care about your health.’”