In a massive show of public support for former police officer Jacob Kersey, petitions containing over 30,000 signatures will be delivered Friday to the mayor and city council of Port Wentworth, Georgia, calling on city officials to apologize for infringing his First Amendment rights.
Kersey, a 19-year-old police rookie, was pulled from duty and pressured to resign in January over a Facebook post he wrote on his personal account upholding a biblical view of marriage. He later quit the Port Wentworth Police Department.
Joining Georgia pastors in delivering the petitions in support of Kersey will be former U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., now senior adviser to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; Bishop Garland Hunt of The Father’s House, a church in metropolitan Atlanta; and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who faced his own crisis over religious freedom.
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The saga began in early January when Kersey was called in by his superiors and told that he could lose his job unless he removed a post he wrote on his personal Facebook page, which stated: “God designed marriage. Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there’s no such thing as homosexual marriage.”
After Kersey refused to delete the post, he was placed on administrative leave while a police department investigation was conducted.
The police department later claimed that Kersey’s post raised “concerns” regarding the “objectivity and the performance of your job duties when a member or suspected member of the LGBTQ+ community is involved.”
Nevertheless, the department found no evidence “to establish a violation of any policies.” Following a subsequent meeting with his superiors, Kersey decided to resign “after he was told he could face termination for future social media posts that others find offensive.”
After Kersey’s story broke, Family Research Council started a petition for members of the public to sign in support of the former police officer’s First Amendment rights. The petition so far has garnered close to 31,000 signatures.
“I’m just really humbled,” Kersey told The Washington Stand. “The fact that God, in his divine plan, saw fit to use me as a vessel in this, to stand for religious liberty and to stand for biblical truth. The fact that over 30,000 Americans would take the time to sign and stand with me in both of those things is comforting, and I know there’s many more Americans out there who would agree with all of us.”
Kersey went on to describe how he saw God at work through his controversial experience with the Port Wentworth Police Department.
“I think God has really used this [situation] to continue to sound the alarm on the attack on religious liberty,” he observed. “Mine’s not the only case. Obviously you have coach [Joe] Kennedy, you have the fire chief Kelvin Cochran, and others like [Christian baker] Jack Phillips—this is just another story to join those individuals. I think it’s just God using it to sound the alarm to hopefully wake people up.”
Kersey also expressed his view that his situation could present an opportunity for the church in America.
“It’s [a] challenge [for] the church, pastors and spiritual leaders, especially here in Georgia, to consider what’s important,” Kersey told The Washington Stand. “Is it important to stand for biblical truth and religious liberty, or is it important for them to fill the pews? I think that’s really where we’re at right now here in the state of Georgia. And I think a lot of pastors, not just here but across the nation, are being challenged with that as well.”
“What is important to them?” he asked. “I think I’ve seen God at work in both ways. He’s encouraged his people, he’s challenged his people, and I think he is empowering his people to be bold and stand for the truth in love.”
As for his plans, Kersey expressed openness to God’s promptings:
I’m trusting God for next steps, and that’s something I’m still praying about. The Lord can do above all we can ask, think, or imagine, so the answer I might give you now if the Lord opens doors and he works his plan, especially through this event where we deliver those petitions, there’s no telling what the Lord’s going to do through this. … I’m trusting God to open the right doors and lead me down the right path. Right now, what’s important is to share this story [to] encourage people.
When asked if he had any words of advice for those considering taking a public stand for their faith but who are afraid of the backlash they might receive, Kersey emphasized a grounding in Scripture.
“I encourage everyone to check their motives,” Kersey said. “We need to know why we are doing what we’re doing. I think the reason why any believer stands up for the word of God is because that is our map, that is our guide, that is the way that God has set for us to live—to shine, and to be salt. So, we have to ensure that we are tethered to Christ first, since he is at the center of everything we do, before we do it. If we’ve done that … we have no reason to fear.”
So when Satan tries to bring whatever it is against us, to silence us, to make us cowards, to make us fear, we have to remember we’re not trusting in our own ability, we’re not trusting in our own wisdom and our own knowledge, we’re trusting in what the word of the Lord says and his promises and his Holy Spirit. … Don’t cower, don’t fear, don’t hide your light under the bushel, but instead ‘put it on the lampstand for all to see, that you may give glory to your Father in Heaven.’
A member of Generation Z, Kersey went on to address the growing epidemic among many in his generation who are struggling with mental health and personal identity issues:
There definitely is an identity crisis. Especially for young people, I think it is vitally important that we remember that our identity is in Christ. For the early church, they really struggled with losing their identity … but Paul clearly said, ‘There’s no slave or free, there’s no Jew or Gentile, there’s no barbarian or Scythian, but we are all one in Christ.’
For the church today, when you come to know Christ, there’s no porn addict, there’s no liar, there’s no drunkard, there’s no homosexual, there’s no transgender, there’s no American, there’s no Chinese, there’s no Russian—we are all one in Christ. If we find our identity in the things of the world, then we are going to still be longing for something, because what we need is Christ. Christ fills that identity.
So my encouragement to young people is: Discover your identity in Christ. And remind yourself of that day in and day out. Because Satan’s going to continue to try to help you find your identity in other things, and we have to reject that. We have to find our identity in Christ, and we can begin to discover that when we read the word and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us.
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