The Family Research Council is standing behind a Georgia pastor who has refused to hand over copies of his sermon notes to the state.
The group has started an online petition condemning Georgia officials for demanding that the Seventh-day Adventist lay pastor give them copies of his sermons. More than 36,000 people have signed the petition to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
"I stand with Dr. Eric Walsh's freedom to believe and live according to his deeply-held beliefs. The demand that he hand over his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral documents including his Bible represents a government intrusion into the sanctity of the church, pastor's study, and pulpit," the petition reads.
"Heavy-handed tactics like this have the effect of intimidating and silencing people of faith everywhere," it continues. "Such targeting of the pulpit by the government is unconscionable, and I urge you to use all means of your authority to correct this egregious overreach of the state into church affairs."
Dr. Eric Walsh and First Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys spoke with CBN News about Walsh's case and why he is refusing to hand over his sermon notes.
Walsh, who is a former district health director with the Georgia Department of Public Health, is now suing the department for religious discrimination.
In 2014, Walsh was hired with the department as a leading health expert on HIV/AIDS. After a few weeks of working in his department, he was asked to hand over ministry material and notes.
Topics covered in the sermons included following God, having compassion on the poor, health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science, creationism, and more.
But The Christian Post reports that the department was investigating Walsh for his Christian views on marriage. Walsh refused to hand over his notes and two days later he was fired.
"I couldn't believe they fired me because of things I talked about in my sermons," Walsh said in April. "It was devastating. I have been unable to get a job in public health since then."
Walsh filed the discrimination lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Health. The state of Georgia later filed a Request for Production of Documents and asked for copies of his sermons and all material relating dating back to when he began preaching at the age of 18.
Walsh refused that request as well.
"No government has the right to require a pastor to turn over his sermons," Walsh said in a statement. "I cannot and will not give up my sermons unless I am forced to do so."
"It is illegal for an employer to consider an employee's religion in making their hiring and firing decisions," Walsh's attorney, Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute told CBN News.
"No one in this country, including Dr. Walsh, should be fired for something they said in the pulpit," Dys added. "The pulpit is a sacred space. For the state of Georgia, starting with Gov. Deal, all the way down to the Department of Public Health, for them to intrude upon that sacred space is a gross violation of the Consititution and religious liberty in general."
"This is an excessive display of the government overreaching its authority and violating the sanctity of the church," he said. "It's clear the government fired Walsh over his religious beliefs, which is blatant religious discrimination."