The Real Badge of Courage

 

First Liberty is defending Jacob Kersey, a Georgia police officer who was forced to resign after he was told he could not share his religious beliefs on his personal social media account. That’s illegal, and we’re asking the city to publicly apologize and update its policies to protect religious employees.

Police Officer Jacob Kersey | First Liberty

Put Your Faith Away, Or You’re Fired!

19-year-old Jacob began working for the Port Wentworth Police Department in May 2022. Everything was going well until he posted a brief message on Facebook: “God designed marriage. Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.”

His supervisor ordered him to take down the post, but Jacob believed he was being pressured to abandon his Christian beliefs and decided not to remove it. His superiors outrageously said the post was the “same thing as saying the N-word and ‘F*** all those homosexuals’.” They also said his free speech was limited due to his position as a police officer. They launched an investigation, placed him on administrative leave and threatened to terminate him.

Jacob realized he faced a choice: Compromise his religious beliefs or continue as a police officer. Forced to choose between his faith and the job he loved, he had no choice but to resign.

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Quotes

“It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone for expressing their religious beliefs.”

– First Liberty Senior Counsel, Stephanie Taub

Stephanie Taub | Hittle Fire Chief - Faith Under Fire

Public Employers Are Not Above the Law

The idea that an employer can threaten to fire an employee for simply expressing a deeply held religious belief while off-duty is chilling. City officials sought to control what Jacob was allowed to say, even deciding that his religious views were “inappropriate” for public viewing. For Jacob, the Port Wentworth Police Department literally became the “Speech Police.”

Beyond being outrageous, the city’s actions are illegal. Federal law prevents Americans from being punished by their employers for expressing their religious beliefs. The law is clear: Employers cannot retaliate against employees because of their religious beliefs and practices. What’s more, they may not create a work environment that is hostile toward religion and must protect employees from harassment.

Insider | Jacob Kersey Case

Jacob Kersey Police Officer | First Liberty Institute

Our First Responders Deserve Better

Police departments across the country have been confronting officer shortages in recent years. Reports show a 40% increase in resignations from 2020 to 2021. Major cities have been hemorrhaging officers from 2020 to 2022. Chicago lost more than 2,400 officers. New York lost 4,000. Philadelphia more than 800.

Policing is a demanding profession. These courageous public servants work around the clock, often putting their health and lives on the line to keep us safe. It’s difficult enough to find people willing to make that sacrifice.

Jacob was inspired to join the police force by the exceptional officers who encouraged him throughout his difficult childhood. He grew passionate about giving back to his community and felt he was called by God to serve in law enforcement. At a time when our nation faces a retention and recruitment crisis, it defies common sense to purge law enforcement of people such as Jacob just because of their faith.

Join the Fight

Requiring Jacob to censor his private, off-duty religious speech to remain employed as a police officer is unconstitutional. Employees shouldn’t have to hide their religious beliefs in order to serve their communities.

Please give now and join First Liberty in the fight for religious freedom. Your support is essential in helping us defend—and win—for Jacob and millions of Americans who are singled out for their faith at work.

*If contributions exceed the immediate needs of a specific project or case, First Liberty may redirect funds at its discretion to provide support for other religious liberty matters.

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