PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. - A former Georgia police officer who was investigated for a religious social media post that claimed "there's no such thing" as gay marriage said he felt pressured to resign after he was told he could be fired for sharing his beliefs.
Jacob Kersey, 19, who quit the Port Wentworth Police Department earlier this month, told Fox News Digital that he was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 4 after he refused to remove the Facebook post he made regarding his Christian belief about marriage.
"God designed marriage," Kersey wrote in the post that was flagged by his superiors following "an anonymous complaint," according to a Jan. 13 letter of notification first reported by the Daily Signal and provided to Fox News Digital. "Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That's why there's no such thing as homosexual marriage."
Kersey wasn't fired after the investigation, but he said he decided to quit because he was told he could face termination for future social media posts that others find offensive. He said he has spoken with a law firm about possible legal action.
Former police officer Jacob Kersey said he was effectively forced to resign from his job after being told he could be terminated for posting his religious beliefs on social media. (Jacob Kersey)
In his letter to Kersey, Maj. Bradwick Sherrod explained that while the department's investigation into his social media posts "did not find sufficient evidence to establish a violation of any policies," his posts regarding "protected classes" such as the LGBTQ community "could raise reasonable concerns regarding your objectivity and the performance of your job duties when a member or suspected member of the LGBTQ+ community is involved."
"As we have discussed previously, please be reminded that if any post on any of your social media platforms, or any other statement or action, renders you unable to perform, and to be seen as able to perform, your job in a fair and equitable manner, you could be terminated," the letter reads.
The major also reminded Kersey that same-sex marriage is legal in Georgia and the U.S. following the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The letter of notification sent to Jacob Kersey on Jan. 13 informing him that same-sex marriage is legal in Georgia and that he could be terminated for future posts on social media. (Jacob Kersey)
"I did nothing wrong, and they told me that," Kersey said of a meeting he later had with department leadership. "That's the reason they did not fire me. They wanted me to come back to work, but they were trying to create a new department policy that would prevent me from saying anything that someone somewhere could consider offensive."
He said he was told that he could post direct Scripture quotations but not his interpretation of them.
"That is such a dangerous precedent: that if you're off-duty on your own time, that you could say anything — even something religious, even something at church — if someone somewhere gets offended, you can get fired for it," he said.
Kersey, who noted that he has conducted a podcast for seven years in which he expresses his opinions, said his chief likened his post to someone using the N-word slur. He decided on Jan. 18 that he had to resign to avoid inevitable termination and potential danger.
"I didn't feel confident that if I were to go out there on the streets and enforce the law, that my command staff was going to have my back," he said. "It's just too dangerous of a job to do that. And I did not think it wise to go back to work under those circumstances."
"I think if you compromise your integrity and your religious beliefs and your faith to win, then you've lost, and I just couldn't do that," he added.
The Port Wentworth Police Department, which serves a town of approximately 11,000 people in the Savannah metropolitan area, did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.
Kersey said other officers in the department privately communicated to him their support, and he does not fault them for not defending him publicly.
"I totally understand why other officers don't want to speak out," he said. "I'm a 19-year-old single young man. I don't have a lot of financial responsibilities, so I'm able to speak out against this because the only thing I have to lose really is my job."
He is more concerned about what such policies could mean for officers who have much more to lose.
"We're not talking about Canada or Russia or China here," Kersey said. "We're talking about the United States; and even within the United States, we're not talking about California or New York. We're talking about Georgia."
He said many have reached out to him to express their "absolute disbelief that something like this is happening in America and that it's happening in Georgia."
Jacob Kersey said he wanted to become a police officer because of the positive impact officers made on him when he was growing up in a broken home. (Jacob Kersey)
Kersey said he developed a respect and admiration for police when they often "would bring peace" to his family while he was growing up in a broken home.
He remembered many of the officers involved in his family's domestic problems would go out of their way to show kindness to him when he was a boy, which he said "made such a massive difference in my life at a very young age." Those interactions ultimately inspired him to become an officer himself when he got old enough, he said.
"I joined the police department, and for over eight months, I only heard great things about my work," he said. "People had nothing but good things to say about my work as a police officer."
Jacob Kersey told Fox News Digital that he hopes his story will encourage other people and especially Christians to stand up for their beliefs. (Jacob Kersey)
Kersey said he remains uncertain what his career goals are now that he has left the department, though he said he is considering going back into law enforcement elsewhere, attending college or entering the ministry. He hopes his story will encourage others to stand up for what they believe, he said.
"In America, most of us will not be called to face physical death for our beliefs," he said. "But we might be called to face the death of our dreams, we might be called to face the death of our reputation, or we might be called to have other people think bad things about us. But what's important is what God thinks about us."
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