Jacob Kersey was a 19-year-old rookie officer at the Port Wentworth Police Department when his social media post, which defended biblical marriage, got him in trouble with his bosses in the little Georgia town of 10,900 residents.
After realizing he was being set up to be fired, Kersey quit last month rather than remain quiet.
On Monday, religious liberty law firm First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the City of Port Wentworth asking the city government to apologize to Kersey for violating his First Amendment rights.
"We are also asking them,” Courtney Jones, a First Liberty attorney, says, “to change their policy to acknowledge the rights of their officers, and other employees, to express their religious beliefs so that no other officer is subject to this overt religious hostility ever again."
In a previous story, AFN reported how Kersey’s online comment that “God designed marriage” angered someone who filed an anonymous complaint. After that complaint, the young man was placed on leave Jan. 4 during an investigation that found Kersey had not violated any City of Port Wentworth policy.
Even so, the police department went after him anyway.
An official letter from a police major, Bradwick Sherrod, stated Kersey had offended “protected classes” and his “objectivity” was in question. It appeared the police department was setting him up for a future termination, since the letter warned Kersey it was unlikely he could carry out his duties in a “fair and equitable manner” to the city’s homosexuals and lesbians. If it becomes apparent he can’t do his job, the letter informs Kersey, “you could be terminated.”
So the young police officer, realizing he was being cornered, turned in his badge and his gun.
‘This will happen to another officer’
In an interview with AFN, Kersey says he sought First Liberty’s help because he realized other Christians who work for the City of Port Wentworth will be forced to reject their beliefs, too, if the city government is allowed to go unpunished.
“There's no doubt in my mind that if the city is allowed to sweep this ludicrous incident under the rug of passing time,” he warns, “this will happen to another officer, and I'll be the example.”
If people are afraid to express their religious beliefs, he adds, “then you don’t have religious freedom.”
After Kersey’s conflict with the Port Wentworth Police Department made national news, many urged him to sue city government for religious discrimination. So far, however, First Liberty has not filed suit on behalf of its client.
According to Jones, the First Liberty attorney, the law firm is “keeping all our options open” while it awaits a response to its letter. The law firm wants to help the City of Port Wentworth understand its “obligations” to the U.S. Constitution, she insists.
“We are hopeful that they will acknowledge and commit to respecting the rights of their employees,” Jones tells AFN, “but we are keeping our options open beyond that."