Eric Walsh may be a heck of a public health director. He’s been in charge of Pasadena’s health department since 2010, and Pasadena is generally regarded as one of Southern California’s better-run cities. His job includes overseeing restaurant inspections, and Pasadena’s restaurants seem to be doing just fine.
But he sure does have an intolerant streak.
In videos that came to light this week and that record him delivering a series of sermons, he denounces homosexuality as a sin, describes evolution as a “religion created by Satan” and says the prophet Muhammad was a Satanist. He contends that God does not recognize any second marriage following a divorce unless the first was destroyed by adultery. He’s also no big fan of plastic surgery or Disney.
None of that bears on his abilities as a health officer, but they do place Pasadena’s programs in a sticky position.
Even public officials are entitled to their private biases, but effective public health programs require the trust of those in its care. Would a gay man or a Muslim feel as comfortable in one of Walsh’s clinics this week as last? When city officials seek his counsel on matters of health, can they rely on him to separate his religious views from his professional duties? Perhaps.
It does seem the burden is on Walsh, however. He might start by explaining how a person holding a position that requires some scientific knowledge can dismiss the fact of human evolution. Someone ought to look up what grade he got in biology.
Pasadena has placed Walsh on leave while it investigates, making him the second Southern Californian to lose his post this week after tapes featured them spouting off venomous rubbish. At least in Walsh’s case, he’s unlikely to be too disturbed by the stories in the press. He believes the media and government are leading the world into a “dark moral decline.”