by Jorge Gomez • reading time 5 min
Thousands of Americans show their support for our customer Jacob Kersey.
First Liberty is defending Jacob, a former Georgia police officer who was wrongfully forced to quit his job because of his religious beliefs. City officials launched an investigation and placed him on administrative leave for expressing his Christian beliefs about marriage on his personal Facebook page.
After his superiors abused him, belittled his faith, and threatened him with firing, Jacob realized he was faced with a choice: compromise his religious beliefs or continue as a police officer. Forced to choose between his faith and his profession, he had no choice but to resign.
Recently, our friends at the Family Research Council (FRC) held a rally to deliver nearly 35,000 signed petitions to Port Wentworth City officials. They presented the signatures to the City Manager and also used the gathering as an opportunity to pray for the Mayor of Port Wentworth, who is currently hospitalized, FRC reports.
The petition calls on city officials to publicly apologize to Jacob for discriminating against him and violating his First Amendment rights. It is reading:
“We are writing to you with grave concern over the treatment of former Port Wentworth Police Officer Jacob Kersey… At a time when crime rates are sky high across the country, our communities should support our law enforcement officers. Instead, you punished Jacob for sharing the biblical view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This is religious bigotry. We will not accept that.”
You can follow the delivery of the petitions in the following video:
Jacob is supported by a coalition of local faith leaders including First Baptist Garden City Senior Pastor Tommy Duke, First Baptist Port Wentworth Pastor Paul Mongin and Bishop Garland Hunt of The Father’s House. Other key allies who have joined this important fight include FRC President Tony Perkins and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired in 2015 for sharing a book he wrote that included a small section in in which he emphasized his views on marriage.
Former Georgia Congressman Jody Hice also expressed his support, urging the city to respect and uphold “the most fundamental of American freedoms, freedom of religion.” Hice added, “Jacob’s story is sadly not unique, so we must double as Americans in order for the First Amendment — and our First Freedom — to thrive in every corner of this nation.”
The idea that an employer could threaten to fire an employee simply for expressing a deeply rooted religious belief in their free time is terrifying. City officials tried to control what Jacob was allowed to say, even ruling that his religious views were “inappropriate” for the public to see. For Jacob, the Port Wentworth Police Department literally became the “language police”.
The city’s actions are not only outrageous, but also illegal. Our attorneys sent a letter explaining that federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for their religious beliefs and practices. We have made it clear:
“The First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause protects Mr. Kersey’s right to express his Christian faith in his private life and to discuss his faith off-duty … The Free Exercise Clause does not permit the state to limit or restrict religious speech to whispers ban broom closets… The department’s actions send a message to Christians who hold traditional biblical beliefs about marriage that they are not welcome as police officers or city employees.”
First Liberty is urging the police department to do the right thing by issuing a public statement pledging to respect the First Amendment rights of its officers and announcing an official policy change that is fully First Amendment compliant .
Requiring Jacob to censor his private off-duty religious speech in order to remain employed as a police officer is unconstitutional. Employees should not have to hide their religious beliefs to serve their communities.
Please donate now and join First Liberty in the fight for religious freedom. Your support is essential to helping us defend—and win—Jacob and the millions of Americans who are recognized for their faith at work.