Knoxville, TN – A Knox County sheriff’s deputy who gave a sermon at a Baptist church advocating that the government kill members of the LGBTQ community has refused to back down on his stance.
Knox County Sheriff’s Detective Grayson Fritts gave the hour-long sermon on June 2 at All Scripture Baptist Church where he is a pastor, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The church posted the sermon to YouTube but it has since been removed for violating the platform’s policy on hate speech.
In the sermon, Det. Fritts said the government should arrest, try and convict, and then “speedily” execute people within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The community was outraged by the sermon, but Det. Fritts refused to back down in the face of opposition.
“I’m not an anomaly. I am a Baptist preacher that is just preaching the Bible and if it offends society, then it’s going to offend society, but if all these other pastors would grow a spine… and would stand up just like I’m standing up,” he said.
Det. Fritts said other Baptist pastors kept the same thought to themselves out of a fear of offending parishioners and having it affect donations, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The detective said he wasn’t calling on his own church members to commit violence with his sermon.
“I’m not calling anybody in here to arms. I’m not calling anyone here to violence,” he said, “I’m saying it’s the government’s responsibility, is what I said… we should be ‘harmless as doves.’”
Knoxville County Sheriff Tom Spangler said Det. Fritts took a voluntary buyout from the county a few days after his anti-LGBTQ sermon went viral, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The sheriff said the detective will remain on paid sick leave until the buyout happens on July 19.
Det. Fritts told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the buyout was not related to the content of his sermon.
Sheriff Spangler has consistently said that Det. Fritts does not reflect the opinion of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
"I want to be very clear that it is my responsibility to ensure equal protection to ALL citizens of Knox County, Tennessee under the law, my oath and the United States Constitution without discrimination or hesitation," the sheriff said. "Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so."
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said Wednesday that prosecutors will review all pending cases that involved Det. Fritts, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
"As district attorney, I have dedicated my career to the belief that justice is blind and that all people are entitled to equal protection of the law," Allen said. "I always have, and always will, prosecute fairly and justly, based upon the law and the evidence, without prejudice, bias, or discrimination of any kind.”
Det. Fritts defended his stance in a video published by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“I didn’t wake up this morning and think, you know I want people to hate me,” the detective said. “You know what, if preaching the Bible causes that to happen, then so be it.
Det. Fritts said his views never impacted his work with the sheriff’s office and likened it to any other job.
“If I worked at the Burger King and someone from the LGBT came in and they ordered a hamburger, I would make them a hamburger. Because that is what my job is," he explained. "Even if I felt differently toward that person, and felt exactly the way I feel and believe, I would still do my job.”
Sheriff Spangler has faced criticism for not firing Det. Fritts outright.
He explained to the Knoxville News Sentinel that there were First Amendment rights that had to be considered and that the decision to let Det. Fritts take the buyout was the best decision for everybody.