If you don’t know Grayson Fritts by name, you’ve definitely read a headline referencing him in the past few days. He’s the Tennessee Sheriff’s Detective-turned-amateur pastor who delivered a so-called “sermon” calling for the United States government to “speedily” execute members of the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this month, Fritts went the worst kind of viral after his All Scripture Baptist Church posted the full video of his remarks on its Facebook page. For more than an hour, Fritts used homophobic slurs, called Pride attendees “filthy animals,” and joked that Christians shouldn’t actually execute members of the LGBTQ community and their allies “unless [you’re] a policeman.”
“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, according to the Advocate. “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.” (On Wednesday, Fritts both stood by and reiterated his statements. “Put homos to death,” he said.)
WVLT reports that Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler quickly denounced Fritts’ statements, calling it “vile and hate-filled speech," and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs also said that those views were “extremely vile and reprehensible.” Fritts has not been fired (because LAWSUITS), but he has been on paid sick leave since he gave the sermon, and has taken a voluntary buyout, which will go into effect on July 19.
To fill his now copious amounts of spare time, Fritts and other members of the All Scripture Baptist Church were supposed to hold a meeting, complete with sausage gravy and fried apples, at the Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tennessee, but the chain told them sorry, you and your ideas aren’t welcome here.
According to Knox News, Mary Mancini, the chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, learned about the church’s scheduled Hate Lunch, and wrote a strongly worded letter to Cracker Barrel CEO Sandy Cochran. “Since you have taken over as CEO at Cracker Barrel, there has been a noticeable improvement in the culture,” she wrote. “The restaurants have become a more hospitable place for all Tennesseans, regardless of who we are, what we look like, etc. Hosting this type of event is in direct conflict with the culture you are working so hard to build, as well as the inclusivity and diversity pledge stated on your website.”
Less than three hours later, Cracker Barrel responded with a statement of its own:
“Cracker Barrel is not affiliated in any way with Mr. Fritts or All Scripture Baptist and we disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness,” it wrote. “We are not hosting any event on June 29, and Mr. Fritts and his group will not be permitted on site.
“At Cracker Barrel, we work hard to foster a culture that is welcoming and inclusive – we have a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort. We take pride in serving as a home away from home for all guests and in showing our communities and our country that the hospitality we practice is open to everyone.
“Our corporate policy strictly prohibits any type of protest or public demonstration on our property or in our stores, and we have advised All Scripture Baptist that their event will not be allowed at Cracker Barrel. We serve everyone who walks through our doors with genuine hospitality, not hate, and require all guests to do the same.”
After being justifiably criticized for its treatment of its LGBTQ employees, Cracker Barrel has spent the better part of this decade taking steps to become a more inclusive workplace. The chain’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index—which evaluates the LGBTQ-inclusive and non-discrimination practices at Fortune 500 companies and other major employers—improved by 20 points between 2017 and 2018.
According to the HRC, Cracker Barrel was rated positively for prohibiting discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, for offering the same spousal medical and soft benefits to same-sex and different-sex couples, for offering diversity training, and for making “at least three efforts of outreach” to the larger LGBTQ community.
Cracker Barrel was also the co-winner of the Nashville LGBT Chamber’s Corporate Diversity Award in 2018, and the Cracker Barrel LGBT Alliance will be a vendor at this weekend’s Nashville Pride festival. (And if it’s like the previous years when they’ve participated in Pride, they’ll have special-to-Pride versions of their signature rocking chairs).