Josh McCuen worked as a sheriff's deputy at Hall County Jail in Georgia for just eight months before being terminated from his position this week — a dismissal that he says was the result of off-site Bible studies he's been running for former inmates and a related fundraising campaign that he launched to support his ministry, WSB Radio reported.
McCuen, who said his efforts were waged to "help rehabilitate spiritually the guys who are … coming out of jail," believes that he was persecuted for his Christian faith when commanding officers reportedly told him to resign or be fired.
But his bosses claim that he was fired for not following the rules and that religion was never brought up as a factor.
At the center of the debate are regulations that preclude officers from "fraternizing" with inmates. And McCuen's Bible studies and revivals, no matter how noble, were apparently seen as falling under that umbrella by his higher-ups, who also claim that he cited twice for insubordination, though the context of those reprimands wasn't revealed, according to WSB Radio.
"It’s clear they call it fraternizing," he told WSB-TV. "It’s actually called being persecuted for Christ. And I take joy in that."
McCuen started a Facebook page in December called Revival 172 and began posting regular messages there about his faith and the revival services he's been holding for ex-inmates and their families. A GoFundMe page setup to raise money for the ministry explains his intentions.
"About 4 months ago, while working in the jail, I came across an [inmate] Jason Williams, who God used to change my life. God grabbed a hold of me and gave me a love for the lost," he wrote. "I was a law enforcement officer for 9 years and up until 4 months ago I thought that every suspect I arrested and every inmate was a maggot. God used an inmate to minister to me and God placed me in a jail around these guys everyday to show me that they are still his people too."
McCuen explains that he approached the initial inmate who started the prison revival and decided to found Revival 172 to help families during loved ones' incarceration, while also assisting former inmates after their release.
"This small setting is not just [for] ex inmates but for anyone that wants to come and [worship] the Lord!" he wrote. "We are holding services every Sunday night @ 6:30 pm at my apartment complex."
The GoFundMe description goes on to ask for funding so that McCuen can rent a facility for meetings, secure sound equipment, purchase Bibles and provide food and household items for the families of inmates who are incarcerated. So far, he has raised $0 of his $10,000 goal.
Having still been on probation after being on the job for only eight months, McCuen was fired on Tuesday.
Commanders with the sheriff's office told WSB Radio that they did not mention McCuen's religious activities during the termination process and that it was the former officer who brought them up when discussing his behavior with higher-ups.
"The supervisor discussing this issue did not make any reference to religious beliefs or actions, but this was brought up by McCuen as a reason for his improper behavior," read a statement.
The sheriff's office also said that Bibles are afforded to inmates who ask for them and that regular religious services are held at the jail.
(H/T: WSB Radio)