Grayson Fritts, a sheriff’s office detective and pastor, made headlines after recordings of his sermons – where he advocated for the execution of LGBTQ people by government officials – were released. Fritts and his small, independent Baptist church were planning to meet at a Cracker Barrel. However, once the chain learned of the scheduled arrival, Cracker Barrel turned them away.
The Cleveland, Tennessee Cracker Barrel cited the restaurant’s zero-tolerance policy, which, according to a report by Knox News, includes “discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort,” when turning away Fritts – a detective with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office – and his Knoxville-based church group. The church members were planning to head to the location on June 29.
In a statement, the Lebanon, Tennessee-based chain, said it was not affiliated with Fritts’ church, adding, “and we disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness.”
Cracker Barrel told the church that its planned event would not be allowed. “We serve everyone who walks through our doors with genuine hospitality, not hate, and require all guests to do the same,” said Cracker Barrel.
The restaurant stated that its corporate policy “strictly prohibits” the use of its property for protests or public demonstrations of any kind.
“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,” said the restaurant in its press release. “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.”
Cracker Barrel learned of the church’s event after members of the LGBTQ community brought it to the restaurant’s attention and asked the chain to intervene. The Tennessee Democratic Party also sent a letter to Cracker Barrel Chief Executive Sandra Cochrane, urging the restaurant to support inclusivity and diversity, pledges the restaurant makes on its website.
Fritts made headlines after a series of his sermons advocated for the execution of LGBTQ people, including by the sheriff’s office where he served as a detective.
Tom Spangler, the Knox County Sheriff, said that Fritts wouldn’t be fired for the sermons, citing a fear of possible lawsuits if Fritts was terminated.
Fritts ended up on paid sick leave, and is likely to remain there until July, when his buyout should go through.