FFRF urges probe into TN sheriff’s call for LGBTQ executions

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling on the Knox County Sheriff's Department to probe Deputy Grayson Fritts’ wrathful demand for the government to execute LGBTQ citizens.

Fritts recently preached a hateful sermon on June 2 at All Scripture Baptist Church entitled “Why Leviticus 20:13 should still be a law enforced by our government.” This bible verse, calling for the death of gay men, 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.”

Fritts openly proclaimed, “The purpose of this sermon is to show you that our government, like the police, like the federal government, like the police or what have you, should enforce Leviticus 20:13, that is the purpose of this sermon.”

Fritts called for state violence against LGBTQ citizens he called “sodomites” and “queers,” even likening them to “animals.” He added:

“The United States government or local government — Knox County government, Tennessee government — should put murderers to death. Should put rapists to death. Should put kidnappers to death. Should put adulterers to death. Should put sodomites to death! You understand me?”

FFRF Attorney and Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel has written to Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler, urging him to immediately investigate this abhorrent violation of Fritts’ public duties as a member of law enforcement with substantial civil power.

“Fritts has a First Amendment right to exercise and preach his religion. He remains free to spout all manner of bigotry and hate,” Seidel writes. “However, he is absolutely prohibited from using a government office — a government job, uniform, badge, weapon, or power — to promote or carry out these evil, immoral religious beliefs. Given the content of his sermon, and the viciousness with which he preached it, we are deeply concerned that he has or will use his office to attack LGBTQ citizens.”

FFRF has also submitted an open records request to gather information pertaining to Fritts’ past conduct as a deputy. FFRF is concerned that Fritts’ palpable rage and hostility toward LGBTQ citizens, driven by his spiteful religious bigotry, has influenced his behavior on the job.

“He is not just talking about his religion and religious beliefs, he is also preaching about what a government officer in his position should do,” Seidel adds. “Fritts has said that the office he occupies should be used to round up and murder people. He even tells stories about his work. This is a man who rages at LGBTQ people and who thinks that government should execute them. That person is not fit to carry a government badge or deadly weapon.”

Finally, FFRF warns its letter serves as an official notice to the Sheriff’s Department of its increased legal liability should violence against LBGTQ people occur in the county.

“It’s shocking to hear a deputy sheriff invoke primitive Old Testamennt bigotry to call for capital punishment of LGBTQ citizens," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor commented.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 400 members and a chapter in Tennessee. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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