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Georgia Police Officer Forced Out of Job For Posting Religious Message Online Sends Letter Demanding Policy Change

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February 13, 2023

News Release
For Immediate Release: 2.13.23
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Georgia Police Officer Forced Out of Job For Posting Religious Message Online Sends Letter Demanding Policy Change
Attorneys representing former officer send letter to Port Wentworth city officials urging policies that protect free speech and free exercise for employees 

Port Wentworth, GA—First Liberty Institute sent a letter today to the city of Port Wentworth (GA) explaining how city officials blatantly discriminated against former city police officer Jacob Kersey after Kersey was forced out of his job for refusing to delete a Facebook post expressing his personal religious beliefs.  The letter also urges officials to create policies that protect the First Amendment rights of city employees.

You can read the letter here.

“It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “The city owes Jacob a public apology.  And it needs to adopt policies that recognize the free speech and free exercise rights of its employees.  Forcing Jacob to choose to either censor his private religious speech or remain employed as a police officer is simply unconstitutional.”

Kersey was a police officer with the Port Wentworth (GA) police department since May 2022.  In January, he shared his beliefs about marriage on his private Facebook page.  The following day, his supervisor told him to take down the post and told him that he could be terminated if he did not delete it.  He was given a letter of notification that warned him that he could be fired if he posted any more “offensive” content on social media.  After the meetings with leadership, he realized that he faced a choice between compromising his deeply held religious beliefs or continuing as a police officer with the department. Forced to leave the job he loved, Kersey resigned on January 17th.

The letter states, “The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects Mr. Kersey’s right to express his Christian beliefs in his personal life and discuss his faith while off duty. See Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. Dist., 142 S. Ct. 2407, 2421 (2022) (finding the Clause protects ‘the ability of those who hold religious beliefs of all kinds to live out their faiths in daily life’). ‘The Free Exercise Clause does not permit the State to confine religious speech to whispers or banish it to broom closets. If it did, the exercise of one’s religion would not be free at all.’ Chandler v. Siegelman, 230 F.3d 1313, 1316 (11th Cir. 2000). . . . The Department’s actions send a message to Christians who hold traditional biblical beliefs about marriage that they are unwelcome as police officers or city employees.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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