What’s the problem with Tennessee these days? Yesterday I wrote about a district attorney in a south-central county who said he would not offer LGBTQ people the full protection of the law in cases of domestic abuse because he believes their marriages aren’t legitimate. Minutes after finishing that post, I spotted this story online. It’s about a Knox County police detective who gave a sermon at a Baptist church advocating that LGBTQ people be hunted down, arrested and executed.
Grayson Fritts is a detective who also serves as pastor at All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Fritts told the congregation June 2 that government at all levels should arrest LGBTQ people and “speedily” execute them.
“The Bible says the powers that be are ordained of God, and God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to these LGBT freaks and arrest them,” Fritts said during the sermon. “Have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, then they are to be put to death ... do you understand that? It’s a capital crime to be carried out by our government.”
Fritts recommended that police raid Pride events, remarking, “All the Pride parades, man, hey, call the riot teams, we got a bunch of ’em, get the paddy wagon out here, we got a bunch of ’em going to jail, we got a bunch of them we’re gonna get convicted because they’ve got their Pride junk on and they’re professing what they are, they’re a filthy animal.” (The entire rant has been posted to Facebook.)
I’ve heard this sort of thing before spouted by the so-called Christian Reconstructionists. The most extreme arm of the Religious Right, Reconstructionists openly espouse theocracy and call for laws to be based on the legalistic books of the Hebrew Bible. In their model “reconstructed” society, members of the LGBTQ community would be executed and so would anyone who commits adultery, curses a parent, engages in witchcraft, is “unchaste,” commits blasphemy or worships a “false god,” among other offenses. (There won’t be many people left, will there?)
Fritts insists that his extreme beliefs never affected his ability to do this job. Oh, please. What member of the LGBTQ community in need of help would feel safe if Fritts answered the call? Fritts is unapologetic. In fact, he doubled down on his beliefs after news about the sermon broke. Just days later he preached again, calling other churches “weak and spineless” for not advocating that LGBTQ people be killed. He concluded the sermon by saying, “Just as much as God loves, God hates. … Put homos to death.”
Nor does it work to argue that this type of talk is all right because Fritts was not on his police job at the time he said those deplorable things. This man’s a public servant. There is no way you can swear to protect and serve an entire swath of the population while simultaneously arguing that they deserve to die. If police officers can be held accountable for being white supremacists, Fritts can be held accountable for his outrageous views.
It looks like action by Fritts’ superiors may not be necessary: He has accepted early retirement and will no longer be on the force next month. That’s a positive development, but, given his radical opinions, one can only wonder how Fritts managed to gain a position of public trust in the first place.