KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County District Attorney’s Office says it is “reviewing all pending cases” involving a Knox County Sheriff’s deputy who made anti-LGBT sermons “to scrutinize them for any potential bias.”
An assistant district attorney has been assigned to receive complaints regarding closed cases, DA Charme Allen said in a statement late Wednesday night.
Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler says a deputy who recently delivered a sermon calling for police officers and government to kill homosexuals is no longer on active duty.
Spangler says Det. Grayson Fritts took part in a workforce reduction buyout program two weeks ago. Spangler says Fritts is on paid sick leave until the workforce reduction takes effect on July 19.
“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. Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so,” Spangler said in a statement.
Fritts recently delivered two sermons condemning homosexuality at All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville, where he is currently pastor. In his June 2 sermon, called “Why Leviticus 20:13 Should Still Be Enforced,” he calls on government and police to enforce the death penalty for homosexuals.
“God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to these LGBT freaks and arrest them, and have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, they are to be put to death,” Fritts said in the sermon, which is posted to YouTube. “It is a capital crime that should be carried out by our government.”
In the following week’s sermon, Fritts also called out the LGBT community, saying they are deserving of hatred from church members and that HIV and AIDS are “their reward for engaging in this type of behavior.
The Knox County District Attorney’s Office says it is looking into Fritts.
“We are looking into it and will respond accordingly. 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. 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,” District Attorney General Charme Allen said in a statement.
Later Wednesday night, Allen released another statement, affirming further action:
“I find this speech personally offensive and reprehensible. As District Attorney, my constitutional obligation is to protect the integrity of the justice system. When any potential witness in a criminal proceeding expresses an opinion of hatred and/or bias towards a class of citizens, I am ethically bound to explore that witness’ credibility. Accordingly, I am reviewing all pending cases involving Mr. Fritts to scrutinize them for any potential bias. Although my office has never received a complaint regarding Mr. Fritts prior to this incident, I have assigned an Assistant District Attorney to receive complaints regarding closed cases, and I will act on those complaints as justice dictates.”
Sermon delivered Wednesday despite scrutiny
Fritts delivered another sermon Wednesday night as planned, saying, “This whole homosexual agenda is not my platform. I think they’re vile, I think they’re wicked, I don’t even want to think about them. My goal is to save, to preach, to educate.”
In the nearly hour-long sermon, Fritts said to a 16-member congregation in attendance, “I’m just saying one of the laws of the United States should be to put homos to death.”
Speaking to media before the sermon, Fritts said his anti-LGBT beliefs did not and have not interfered with his work at KCSO.
“It’s totally separate, because if I’m employed by the sheriff’s office, then if they came into the sheriff’s office, obviously they’re allowed there. You understand what I’m saying? This. I am over this. I am the head of this church. I say who comes and goes. Those people are not permitted to join those people are not permitted to attend,” said Fritts.
LGBT community reacts
“I was in awe and shock,” said Sterling Field, the Tennessee Equality Project chair for Anderson, Blount, and Knox counties.
Field said knowing speech, like that used in the sermon, within the community has dangerous impacts.
“This is where my friends are, where my community is. There’s someone talking about executing my friends and family,” said Field.
JUST NOW: A neighbor left a note addressed to Pastor Grayson Fritts outside of the church. #WATE @6News pic.twitter.com/ZWn4ZAXTuo — Madisen Keavy (@madisenkeavy) June 12, 2019
An anonymous community member left a note outside of the church addressed to Fritts:
“I don’t know what happened to you but I am so sorry. Love, Thy Neighbor”
The Southern Baptist Convention confirms All Scripture Baptist Church is not and has never been part of the convention, calling it an independent church.