The New McCarthyism
Attacks on controversial Health Department chief put us all on a slippery slope
By Victor Cass 05/14/2014
Dr. Eric Walsh, director of the Pasadena Public Health Department, was recently placed on paid administrative leave. This was done so the city could conduct an investigation into allegations made by a Pasadena City College student activist group that Walsh had made bigoted comments while delivering one or more sermons in his role as an associate pastor at his Seventh-day Adventist Church, which may be affecting his job performance.
Naturally, a city has a stake in ensuring that all the citizens it serves feel they will be treated humanely, fairly and without prejudice or discrimination in any form, and that none of the city’s policies, procedures or codes of conduct have been violated by any member in their employ. I’m fine with that.
What I’m troubled by is the idea gaining traction in our society in which a person, no matter their title, position, level of education, training and professionalism, can be ostracized and publicly branded a bigoted hate-monger based not only on their religious beliefs, but on how they worship in their church, or preach from their pulpit.
Whatever Dr. Walsh’s personal religious beliefs may be, is it that difficult to conceive that the man would be able to check his religion at the door when he went to work? That as a medical doctor, his personal faith would not interfere with his ability to deliver compassionate, professional health services to all citizens, whatever their race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion happens to be? By the way, Walsh has been doing just that in his post, without complaint or public outcry. I know, because I have worked with him and his staff and have seen firsthand the types of services they offer, and have used them myself. I have seen no bigotry or hate toward any group on the part of Dr. Walsh or his employees.
The idea that someone is incapable, or physically, psychologically or emotionally unable to keep their personal beliefs to themselves and act in a professional, compassionate and humane manner in a work environment, whether in government or the private sector, invites serious questions.
So, a member of the National Rifle Association can’t organize and lead an anti-gun violence coalition’s gun buyback or peace march because they believe in an American’s right to own firearms? Conservative Republicans can’t volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen because they might believe that poverty and homelessness are the fault of individual actions and behaviors?
I’m Presbyterian. I believe that Jesus Christ is God, one and the same, who came to us in human form, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. I believe Jesus rose on the third day to ascend to Heaven, where He (God, the Son) sits at the right hand of God (the Father). I believe that people are born saved or not, and that everything is predestined, whether we like it or not.
Now, there are some who would disagree with my religious beliefs, and even others who might be offended by them. Does this make me a hate-filled bigot? Does this mean I am now incapable of carrying out my duties as a police officer, which I have been doing for 21 years, or as head of a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping families struggling with mental illness?
Do you see how intolerant and potentially dangerous this type of thinking is? That’s the real bigotry that’s developing in this country; this idea that if you don’t believe as this or that group does, if you don’t believe in climate change and evolution, or if you believe that homosexuality is a sin as stated in the Bible, or that moral relativism is wrongheaded, secular bunk being sold to our children in public schools, or that rap music is inspired by the devil, and you express these beliefs in public, then you must be a hate-mongering, racist, bigot unworthy to hold any professional, business or leadership posts.
Basically, it’s an end-run around the First Amendment, and it’s the same type of oppressive mentality that led to McCarthyism. Who cares if you’re not getting arrested, fined and imprisoned? If you can be publicly ostracized, placed on leave or fired, professionally ruined, have your livelihood stripped, or be forced to sell your property because of your thoughts, beliefs, writings, sermons or religious faith, it’s the same persecution and a violation of one’s constitutional rights. Freedom of speech, worship and the right to have a dissenting opinion or unpopular viewpoint are in serious trouble in this country.
Today, Dr. Walsh is on administrative leave while being investigated to see if his controversial religious views have impacted his job performance, based upon the complaints of a political group that didn’t like his beliefs. Tomorrow, you might be deemed a hate-filled bigot and placed on administrative leave, fined, fired and have your livelihood taken away because you a. voted Republican, b. joined the NRA, c. own guns, d. have a son in the Boy Scouts of America, e. belong to the Freemasons, f. wrote an article like this one …
Scary, isn’t it?
Victor Cass, a veteran Pasadena police officer, serves as president of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Gabriel Valley, the fourth largest NAMI affiliate in LA County.