(Last updated June 17, 2019)
Last Sunday, at a church in Knoxville, Tenn., Grayson Fritts, a preacher and detective for the Knoxville Count Sheriff’s Department, gave a sermon at his church calling for the government to arrest and execute LGBT+ people in 2019.
CNN released the story on Fritts, who stated in his sermon, “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.”
The church removed the preaching video from their website, but a local news source salvaged a clip from the sermon that is still available on Twitter.
(Warning: the speech contained in the video and quoted words below are violent and hateful in nature.)
In the sermon, Fritts compared homosexuality to “murder, rape, kidnapping, adultery,” and “beastiality.” From the pulpit, he called LGBT+ people “freaks” and “homos,” “Sodomites,” “twinkies,” and “filthy animal[s],” calling homosexuality a “capital crime” that non-Christian and Christian government officials both should enforce.
He says, “I don’t want you to walk out of here and go to some church where you get some homo in the leadership at that church or get some homo sitting next to you in the pew and think it’s just normal.”
Defending His Words Days Later
Days after the sermon, Fritts defends and stands by what he said in this CNN video report. He claims in the video that his role as the county sheriff and his role at church are “totally separate,” despite his prior call for the modern state government to execute LGBT+ people.
Wednesday night, he returned to the pulpit to “double down on his anti-LGBTQ” beliefs before his congregation of 16 people. The video, along with Fritts’ subsequent messaging to his congregation, seemed to indicate that Fritts did not see an issue with his statements in the original sermon.
Fritts horrifically misinterprets the holistic ethic of the Scriptures. He regards a modern society as though it were to be treated the same as the ancient theocracy of Israel. It wrongly concludes of the Scriptures that beliefs held by a religious entity ought to be universally applied across an entire nation that does not share those beliefs — something never modeled by new testament church leaders. Most importantly, it disregards the new covenant mediation of Jesus, who died for all people so they might live.
The use of Scripture to justify human political and religious agendas is nothing new. Yet violence against LGBT+ people is also far from being a thing of the past.
Anti-LGBT+ Violence: Not So Ancient, Not Just Religious
While violence against and execution of LGBT+ people may seem unthinkable, it is and has been a reality in our modern world. LGBT+ people are beaten, killed, and tortured by secular and religious governments and civilians alike, secular and religious alike.
The brutal murder of Matthew Shepard by two young men took place just 21 years ago in the Western United States. Last year, hundreds of gay men were sent to prison camps in Chechnya where they were beaten, humiliated, and stoned by government officials. Only months ago, homosexuality became illegal in Brunei, punishable by stoning.
This week in Orlando, Fla., Pastor Patrick Boyle sponsored a “Make America Straight Again (MASA)” conference, featuring speakers such as Steven Anderson, who has publicly praised the Pulse nightclub shooter. Boyle leads a 60-member church in the city in which the Pulse nightclub shooting took place 3 years ago this month.
LGBT+ violence still occurs frequently in 2019. For more examples, see our document A Brief History of LGBT+ Victimization.
Where is the Mercy?
Today, vulnerable young people growing up in our families and churches are watching and waiting for our reactions. We may not be saying such things from our own pulpits, but will we actively speak against violent interpretations of Scripture? Or will we remain silent and leave young people wondering whether they are safe?
We may not be saying such things from our own pulpits, but will we actively speak against anti-LGBT+ violence? Or will we remain silent and leave young people wondering whether they are safe?
May we grieve lost lives, repent from our sins against LGBT+ people, actively stand against anti-LGBT+ violence, and communicate that it is an honor to serve and grow in Christ alongside LGBT+ people in our churches.
Featured image source: ‘Tennessee preacher-cop calls for execution of LGBTQ people’, accessed June 15, 2019 at 10:00am EST. Screenshot from video report, Ralph Ellis and Amanda Watts, CNN.