In January 2023, a 19-year-old police officer in Port Wentworth, Georgia, Jacob Kersey, was reprimanded by his supervisors for posting a Facebook post about the Bible and gay marriage.
Since then, he has been forced to resign his position after allegedly being told that his free speech was “limited due to his position as … a police officer.” Now, Kersey is taking action with the help of First Liberty Institute, an organization that advocates for religious liberty.
Kersey’s attorney, Christine Pratt, has requested that the police department apologize and retract their statement about Kersey’s free speech being limited. They are also requesting that the police department issue a policy statement that recognizes the constitutional rights of their employees. If their requests are not met, Pratt stated that “all options are on the table.”
Kersey is hopeful that the police department will make the right decision and protect the rights of the other officers that still work there. He stated that “when people hear this story, they’re just like, ‘Wow.’ They’re blown away that this is actually occurring in this country.”
First Liberty Institute is currently standing up for Kersey and has stated that “Jacob Kersey was a police officer with the Port Wentworth (GA) police department when he shared his beliefs about marriage on his private Facebook page. In the following days, he was ordered to take the post down by his supervisors, threatened with termination, and ultimately given the 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. First Liberty Institute is fighting for Jacob.”
In February, First Liberty sent a letter to Port Wentworth officials, urging them to create policies that protect the First Amendment rights of their employees and to apologize to Kersey. Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute, noted that “it is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone for expressing their religious beliefs.” She also stated that “forcing Jacob to choose to either censor his private religious speech or remain employed as a police officer is simply unconstitutional.”
At this time, it remains to be seen what will happen with this case. However, it is clear that the Port Wentworth Police Department is in violation of state and federal civil rights laws for discriminating against Kersey for expressing his religious beliefs. It is hopeful that the police department will take the necessary steps to ensure that their employees’ rights are respected and that Kersey will be able to return to his job.