by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
Thousands of Americans are showing their support for our client 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, because he expressed his Christian beliefs about marriage on his personal Facebook page.
After his supervisors mistreated him, belittled his beliefs and threatened him with termination, Jacob realized he faced a choice: Compromise his religious beliefs or continue as a police officer. Forced to choose between his faith and his job, he had no choice but to resign.
Recently, our friends at Family Research Council (FRC) hosted 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 Port Wentworth’s Mayor who is currently hospitalized, FRC reports.
The petition asks city officials to publicly apologize to Jacob for discriminating against him and violating his First Amendment rights. It reads:
“We write you with great concern about the treatment of former Port Wentworth Police Officer Jacob Kersey…At a time with sky-high crime rates nationwide, our communities should be supporting our law enforcement officers. You instead punished Jacob for sharing the biblical view that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. This is religious bigotry. We will not stand for this.”
In the video below, you can watch the petitions being delivered:
Jacob is being 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’ve 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 highlighting his views on marriage.
Former Georgia Congressman Jody Hice also voiced his support, calling on the city to “respect and abide by the most basic of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” Hice added, “Jacob’s story unfortunately is not unique so we, as Americans, must double down on allowing the First Amendment—and our First Freedom—to flourish in every corner of this nation.”
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. Our attorneys sent a letter explaining that federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees because of their religious beliefs and practices. We made clear:
“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…The Free Exercise Clause does not permit the State to confine religious speech to whispers or banish it to broom closets…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.”
First Liberty is asking the police department to do the right thing by issuing a public statement committing to respect the First Amendment rights of its officers, as well as to announce an official change of policy that’s fully consistent with the First Amendment.
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.