The pastor of a small Baptist church in Tennessee delivered a sermon earlier this month that likely would have made headlines under any circumstances. Grayson Fritts told his congregation that police should arrest gay people ("freaks" and "animals") so they can be tried and executed, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. But what has elevated the controversy even more is that Fritts also happens to be a detective with the Knox County Sheriff's Office, though he's on his way out. Details and developments:
- The sermon: On Sunday, June 2, Fritts stood before his All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville and declared, "I'm sick of sodomy getting crammed down our throats," per the Washington Post. "God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest them and 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."
- See video: The Tennessee Holler has a video with excerpts from the sermon. Fritts says it's easy to spot gay people because they're "flamboyant." He also mocked Pride Parades, taking place during June, and called out Taylor Swift for advocating on behalf of LGBTQ rights. "It's infecting our culture," he complained.
- Outgoing detective: County Sheriff Tom Spangler says Fritts, 39, has taken a buyout and is no longer on active duty. He will be on sick leave until the buyout takes effect July 19. "I want to be very clear that it is my responsibility to ensure equal protection to ALL citizens of Knox County ... without discrimination or hesitation," said the sheriff. "Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so."
- Case review: The Knox County District Attorney's Office is now reviewing all pending cases involving Fritts and encourages anyone with concerns about a closed case to come forward, reports WVLT.
- Condemnation: Several public officials, including the mayor of Knoxville, the mayor of Knox County, and Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee have denounced Fritts. "Let’s be very clear. This Knox County Sheriff’s detective is preaching about murdering LGBTQ people," wrote Cooper. "There is no ambiguity. There is no confusion. He is suggesting the execution of our friends and neighbors."
- Fritts' key passage: "The purpose of this sermon is, our government, like the police, should enforce Leviticus 20:13," Fritts told his congregation. Per WVLT, the King James Bible version of Leviticus reads: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
- Defending himself: Fritts told reporters that he never let his beliefs affect his job as a detective. In a subsequent sermon, he said: “The world looks at it and they’re like, ‘Oh, there’s Pastor Fritts. There’s that lone wolf ... that one guy, that one Baptist pastor that’s just a lunatic, that’s just crazy.'" But, he added, "There’s a lot of people that believe exactly like I believe.”
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