Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
It took 20 words on Facebook for a 19-year-old in Georgia to cease being a police officer almost as fast as he started.
As first reported by The Daily Signal, Jacob Kersey says he felt pressured into resigning from his position as an officer with the Port Wentworth Police Department after his supervisor demanded he take down a post in which he espoused a traditional view of marriage.
“God designed marriage,” Kersey wrote on Facebook. “Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there is no such thing as homosexual marriage.”
According to Kersey, the supervisor stated that someone, Kersey does not seem to know who or how many, complained about the post and that it had to come down or Kersey could be fired.
“If someone somewhere considers an opinion I have — that isn’t a direct quotation from Scripture — to be offensive, then that would be a fireable offense,” Kersey told the Signal.
While Kersey’s opinion on marriage is undoubtedly offensive to a secular audience and isn’t universally accepted by all Christians, it is hardly uncommon. Given that Kersey was posting on his personal account, the act unequivocally falls under protected speech.
A 2020 article from PowerDMS, a policy management company that specializes in law enforcement, contains a warning against police departments meddling in the personal online activity of their officers.
“In general, law enforcement agencies should be cautious about being too restrictive about officers’ personal social media use,” the article reads. “Your agency’s social media policy has to respect officer’s First Amendment rights.”
PowerDMS recommends that agencies be diligent about maintaining control of official departmental social media accounts, which Kersey’s would in no way be, and that officers be warned against posting anything that shows them actually violating or appearing to violate the department’s code of conduct.
The latter caveat might apply to Kersey. After his offending post, his department eventually created a new policy — a document Kersey shared with The Daily Signal — that established rules for what officers could and could not post.
Early in the process, though, it seems the Port Wentworth Police Department seems to have been grasping for justifications.
According to Kersey, the department cited concerns that Kersey’s message might lead to a lawsuit if the young officer ever used force while arresting someone from the LGBTQ community.
When Kersey refused to relent based on that argument, he was placed on administrative leave.
About a week later, Kersey was told his First Amendment rights had limitations due to his position as a cop, that separation of church and state prevents officers from sharing such opinions, and that Kersey was no longer allowed to share his “interpretation or opinion on Scripture if it was deemed offensive.”
The department said Kersey would be relegated to posting verses of scripture without commentary.
Kersey did not reveal if the department specified how it calculated offensiveness, what constituted an inoffensive interpretation, which translation of the Bible was fair game for quoting, or what would happen if Kersey posted a verse of Scripture that was taken as offensive by the magic number of offendees required for something to be deemed offensive.
“I decided to resign … because I just didn’t think it wise to go back and play their game,” Kersey said.
It remains unclear what Kersey will do next.
“[I don’t] want to be the man that sits passively by as the whole world, and my fellow countrymen, are deceived by the lies … happening in [the] culture,” The Daily Signal quoted Kersey as saying. He added this, “could very well mean I will not have another opportunity to be a police officer. That has been an extremely difficult reality to accept, but I sincerely believe speaking up is the right thing to do.”