This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
Lawyers for a former police officer in Port Wentworth, Georgia, are warning the town to follow the Constitution after the police department formally threatened the officer for sharing his biblical marriage perspective online.
First Liberty Institute said it has sent a letter to the city of Port Wentworth “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 suggests the city create policies protecting the First Amendment.
“It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Stephanie Taub, of First Liberty.
“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.”
The letter explains, “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.”
First Liberty, a nationwide legal group that works to protect religious liberty, is representing Kersey. He resigned from the Port Wentworth department “after facing backlash for sharing his personal, biblical view of marriage in a Facebook post,” according to the Daily Signal.
Kersey’s statements included, “God designed marriage. Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.”
The city put him on leave when he declined to remove the post and then was told he was back on duty but was not allowed to share his faith.
It previously was reported that shortly after the dispute with Kersey, Police Chief Matt Libby announced his retirement.
“I think the other members of the command staff need to publicly apologize for infringing upon the rights of their officers to freely practice religion and to commit to ensuring something like this never happens again,” Kersey told the Daily Signal at the time.
“I don’t think they [the Port Wentworth PD command staff] ever expected this story to get so much attention,” Kersey said. “And I think that is why they thought they could get away with effectively forcing me to resign. I hope this never happens to another officer.”