What are you willing to give up to stand by your religious convictions? That’s a question Jacob Kersey did not anticipate having to ask himself at the age of 19.
Kersey was excited to be a new officer with the police department in Port Wentworth, Georgia, a town of about 12,000 near Savannah. He says everything was going well until the start of the new year. On Jan. 2, Kersey posted a 20-word message on Facebook about his biblical view of marriage.
“God designed marriage. Marriage refers to Christ and the church,” he wrote. “That’s why there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.”
Kersey’s supervisor asked him to remove the post after someone complained.
When the young officer refused, he was placed on paid administrative leave. Kersey was ultimately given a choice by his command staff: Either agree not to post views that could be seen as controversial or face losing his job. Ultimately, Kersey made the choice to resign, explaining that he refuses to abandon his religious convictions.
Kersey joins this episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share his story and explain why he was willing to sacrifice his job for his faith.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: On Jan. 2, a Georgia police officer named Jacob Kersey wrote on his Facebook, “God designed marriage. Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.”
That statement led Kersey to be placed on administrative leave. And ultimately, to make the decision to resign from the Port Wentworth Police Department amid the backlash that he faced. Port Wentworth Police Department is just outside Savannah, Georgia.
And Jacob Kersey joins us now. Jacob, welcome to the show.
Jacob Kersey: Well, thank you, Virginia. It’s an honor to be on.
Allen: So take us back to Jan. 2, if you would. Why did you decide, “I want to share about my views on traditional marriage on Facebook”?
Kersey: Well, it’s not new. I’ve said that before, I’ve made statements like that many times in the past, over the past several years. And I’ve had a podcast for seven years, and we’ve actually had a conversation on my podcast. One specifically that I can think of is “Can I be a homosexual and a Christian?” with Dr. Michael Brown. And that was a great conversation that we’ve had. So I’ve said these things before.
Now, Jan. 2, specifically, I’ve been reading a book on marriage. Specifically, “This Momentary Marriage” by John Piper, if you want to go read it, it’s a great book. But the imagery there, when you look at Scripture, is, especially in Ephesians 5, Paul talks about marriage as a mere image of Christ and his bride, the church. Not his groom, but his bride.
And so, I posted that on Facebook. I’m just kind of restating that in my own words, that, “God created a marriage, marriage refers to Christ in the church. That’s why there’s no such thing as a homosexual marriage.”
Allen: So, you make the post. And then the next day, Jan. 3, you get a call from your supervisor at the police department. What does he say to you?
Kersey: Correct. Well, yes. So the next day, Jan. 3, my direct supervisor calls me and says, “Hey, someone complained about your post. We’re going to need you to take it down.” And immediately I was like, “Well, I can’t do that.” I said, “I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but I’m not going to be able to do that.” And he said, “Well, you have to remember separation of church and state. And if you fail to remove it, you could be terminated.” And so I said, “OK. Well, I’m not going to remove it. What do I need to do?” He said, “Well, call your lieutenant.”
So I called my lieutenant and my lieutenant said, “Well, this kind of concerns us. There’s a lot of liability maybe, paperwork we’d have to do if you got involved in a use of force with a member of the LGBT community. So that’s why we need you to remove it.”
I said, “Well, if I do everything right, if I do my job professionally and treat everyone with courtesy, fairness, and respect, why does it matter that I have these deeply held Christian beliefs?” I said, “There’s many officers that believe just like I do. So why is this an issue?” He said, “Well, let me talk to the major.”
Well, and then the major called and told me to, “Turn in everything that belongs to the city.” Now, normally when a police officer’s told that, if you ask any officer, that means you’re done, you’re fired.
So I go in the next day, on Jan. 4. And on Jan. 4, I have this meeting after I turned in everything, gave the keys to my patrol car, parked it in the back. I have this meeting with my lieutenant, my captain, my major, and the chief. And the whole time I’m thinking, “I’m already fired, right?”
And they’re just giving me a second chance, they’re trying to talk me into deleting the post. When they realize I won’t delete the post, my chief likens what I said, that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman, he likens it to saying the N-word. He equates me to the most horrific kind of racists, which I think is absolutely despicable. And then they say, “Well, you’re being placed on administrative leave while we investigate this.”
So a week later, I get called back in, they tell me I’m “off administrative leave.” I can come back to work. I didn’t violate any policies. However, they were going to create a new department policy. And this is how they told me they were going to enforce it, Virginia. They told me that I could post Bible verses, that was fine. But if I posted any interpretation or opinion on those Bible verses, and it’s considered offensive by someone, somewhere, that I would, not could, but they told me in the meeting I “would be fired.”
Well, what is offensive to someone? I mean, anyone could consider anything I say offensive. So they gave me an ultimatum, effectively: You can resign now or if you come back to work, you will be fired.
Allen: So you either had to sign their form and say, “I’ll be silent on my views and come back to work—”
Allen: ” … or if I’m not silent, there’s a risk that kind of looms over your head of, at any point, you could lose your job”?
Kersey: Correct. If I say anything that offends someone, I could go back and get fired.
Allen: And Jacob, when you think back to why you wanted to become a cop in the first place—you’re just 19 years old, you’re a new officer. What led you to this profession? And what were your expectations coming in?
Kersey: Well, as a young boy, I remember I grew up in a broken home, like a lot of kids today, unfortunately. And there was a lot of law enforcement officers involved because of a custody battle. And I remember looking at them when they showed up on scene, they brought peace, they brought order, and they would bring encouragement to it, to a young boy who was going through things he didn’t even really understand.
And these officers went above and beyond the call of duty to come over and give me a fist bump and spend a little bit of extra time, even though they didn’t have to, to encourage this young boy. And so, that inspired me at a young age, and I wanted to know what it was like to serve.
And so when I was old enough, in the state of Georgia, when you turn 18, you can become a police officer. Depends on which department you go to, but you can be a police officer at 18. And so I joined, went to the police academy, and I was hearing great things.
And in my own personal life, I was growing a lot as I was learning what it meant to serve. But at the end of the day, I realized that a job title isn’t everything to me. And my religious beliefs, my savior, Jesus Christ, I mean, my values are at the core of who I am. And I’m not willing to compromise those in order to keep a job title.
Allen: So you, ultimately, made the decision that, “I’m going to resign.” How are you doing since you made that decision? That’s a big decision, to say, “OK, I’m stepping back.” What was going through your head when you were telling, and writing that resignation letter, and saying, “No, I’m not going to delete the post. I will resign”?
Kersey: Well, just disbelief, really. I mean, we talked about me having a podcast for seven years. I’m used to being where you’re sitting, asking the questions and asking people to tell me their story. And I’ve asked people, “When will Christians be persecuted for their religious beliefs? When will they lose their job for these things?”
And I kind of asked that thinking, “Well, this is going to happen maybe in New York, California. But never to me. Never in Georgia. Never in a small town.” And then it did. And I was just in complete disbelief.
But I knew immediately that there’s no way that I could back down. Especially after standing up and encouraging people, saying, “Hey, stand up for what you believe. Don’t be silenced. Don’t let cancel culture cancel you. Share your story.” And I’ve been saying that for years.
And then when it happened to me, at first I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do this or not. There’s going to be a lot of naysayers.” But at the end of the day, I knew what I had to do. And I believe part of that was the Holy Spirit coming in and in the moment letting me know, “Hey, you have to do this.”
Allen: Jacob, your story has received tremendous response from people. We’ve shared it across The Daily Signal’s social media platforms and we’ve received so many comments from individuals.
And I think a lot of people are just really surprised that what happened to you, first off, happened at any police department. But also, that it happened in the South. Jerry Staubach, he commented on Facebook that, “Georgia is turning into a California/New York. Completely opposite of all other Southern states.”
Were you surprised that, in the state of Georgia, that they would be so taken aback by an embrace of traditional marriage?
Kersey: Right. Well, I have to also mention that the police department command staff there claims to be Christian as well. So not only is it a place in Georgia, but the command staff there claims to be Christian. And then they’re trying to tell me not to be vocal about my belief in traditional marriage when I’m off duty. I was absolutely just in disbelief and taken aback that this was occurring.
And a lot of people, Virginia, have reached out and asked me, “Well, what happened to the First Amendment?” Well, we can’t expect the document to get up and start fighting for itself. And we certainly can’t expect Washington, D.C., to go around and protect everyone in every single state. It takes individuals. And really, it takes people who are in positions of leadership over their employees to say, “Look, I don’t always agree with what’s said around me, what my employees say, but I respect their right to say it. And I respect their right to freely practice their religion.”
And so, what’s happened to the First Amendment is, we the people have not had a backbone. And we really have to stand up. And look, there’s going to be a lot of naysayers. There has been in my case. But at the end of the day, you know what you’re doing is right. And you can’t simply go off of the naysayers and listen to them and let them dictate what’s right and wrong for you. You have to look to values, outside of yourself.
Allen: Jacob, it was really fascinating because we saw on Monday that the Port Wentworth police chief, Matt Libby, announced that he’s retiring. And he told WSAV News 3 that retirement was not his choice. It was not what he had planned. But he was, essentially, pressured to retire.
Do you think that he’s retiring because of your story reaching the public’s ears and because of the fact that Police Chief Libby, essentially, he was responsible for you being placed, ultimately, on administrative leave and then your decision to resign?
Kersey: Right. So, do I think that his resignation has something to do with my story? Absolutely. I might not say it, but I think it absolutely does.
I mean, we’ve been covering this story, nationally, for the past week. And then just on Monday of this week, he resigns. I don’t think that’s just a mere coincidence. Especially, hearing now that it was a forced resignation. I don’t know if the city’s going to come public and say anything as to why they forced him to resign. I certainly hope they do. I think we should demand that they do.
But also, I must say that the local news in Savannah have been very silent, really, about this story. The only story I’ve seen, actually, came out earlier today. And it was by WJCL, which is the ABC-affiliated news station down there. They never reached out to me. Freaking Fox News was able to reach out to me, but a local news station, WJCL, can’t reach out and get my side of the story?
And they said that the reason that I resigned was because I was told that my post offended many people. That’s not at all the reason I resigned. I resigned because I was given an ultimatum: I could either resign now or come back to work and be fired for expressing my Christian beliefs.
So I don’t understand what the news media down there is doing, if they’re trying to keep this story quiet, but people aren’t dumb. People will see this story and they’re going to look up, “Well, I wonder why he resigned.” When they type in “Port Wentworth police,” they’re going to see there’s been national news over the past week about my story.
Allen: Norma Jack Steinhauer, she commented on your story on Facebook and said, “Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. Give this young man his job back, this is going too far.”
If things changed at the Port Wentworth Police Department and they came to you and said, “We’d love to have you back on the team,” would you go back?
Kersey: I think that would take a lot of prayer. And I don’t know if there will be a scenario in which I’m able to go back and work at Port Wentworth, especially as well known as I am now.
But I will say this, though, whether or not I go back or not, I think that there needs to be real change at that police department, and at police departments, and really just at other businesses all over the nation.
I mean, I’ve seen too many stories of people who are fired or forced to resign for having beliefs like I do, whether it’s in traditional marriage or whether it’s pro-life beliefs. And they’re being forced to quit their jobs or they’re being fired for it. That’s absurd, to be told that the only way that you can have a job and make a living in this nation is if you hold to one set of beliefs.
Well, I thought that’s why we left England in the first place. We need to go back to our roots and really discover, what kind of people do we want to be? It’s one thing to champion these documents, but it’s another thing to actually say, “Hey, you know what? I personally, as a citizen of this nation, believe in the reason for our founding. And I’m going to stand for it and I’m going to uphold it in my own life.” And that’s what we absolutely have to do.
And so, I certainly hope that the … city of Port Wentworth and the Port Wentworth Police Department will come forward now and say, “Look, we apologize that this ever happened.” And that, “We’re going to ensure that this never happens to one of our officers again.”
Allen: Do you, personally, have any regrets? If you could do it all over again, would you?
Kersey: If I can do it all over again, I would post the same thing because I think we’ve ceded far too much ground when it comes to traditional marriage and family. I mean, this was even before my generation. I grew up in a broken home because of what took place with the sexual revolution. People saying, “Well, it’s OK to cohabitate and sleep around and have kids before marriage.”
And then now, we’ve reached a point to where, look at what our kids are being taught in school right now: “Well, you don’t have to be a mermaid if you’re a girl. You can be a merman.” It’s not going to stop. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s going to continue to cause chaos and destruction in our country.
And I think, like I said earlier, we’ve ceded far too much ground. So no, I don’t have regrets.
Allen: What’s next for you?
Kersey: Well, I’m still trying to figure that out, obviously.
Allen: That’s fair.
Kersey: A lot of people have asked me am I going to go back into law enforcement. I love law enforcement a lot, and I really wish I could have done that job longer. And I think there’s a lot I still had to learn and a lot more I wanted to do in that career path.
But I think there are other important discussions to be had. And if the Lord’s giving me an opportunity and platform to have these conversations, ask these questions, and stand up for things that really matter—ultimate things in life, like family, and faith, and freedom—I’m going to do that.
And so, whatever that looks like. Whether that is going back into law enforcement, or whether that’s doing a podcast, or going to college, going into ministry, I’m not sure exactly what that looks like. But I’m going to pray and trust him.
Allen: It’s a good position to be in, praying and trusting.
Jacob, you’ve mentioned your podcast a couple of times. For those who are curious, who want to hear more from you, how can they find that podcast?
Kersey: Well, it’s “The Jacob Kersey Program,” and you can listen to that on Spotify, iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, really wherever you get podcasts.
And I’m @realjacobkersey on social media, if you want to follow this story.
Allen: Excellent. Jacob, thank you. We really appreciate your time, we appreciate your willingness to share your story.
Kersey: Thanks so much, Virginia.
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