Tennessee Cracker Barrel refuses service to pastor-cop who preaches that LGBTQ people should be executed.
Tim Boyle/Getty

If you wonder why the LGBTQ community holds Pride parades, look no further than Grayson Fritts.

If you don't know who Grayson Fritts is, here's a brief intro:

He's a pastor. He's a police officer. And he is on video screaming from the pulpit that the government should kill gay people.

That's not an exaggeration.

In a video of a fist-pounding sermon at All Scripture Baptist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, Fritts said that police should round up people at Pride parades, put them through a quick trial, and then put them to death.


"The Bible says the powers that be are ordained of God," he said, "and God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to these LGBT FREAKS and arrest them. Have a trial for them, and if they are convicted then they are to be put to death…do you understand that? It's a capital crime to be carried out by our government. Not Christians...unless you're a policeman. Know what I mean? If you're a policeman it should be your responsibility to carry these things out."

Just FYI, this man was named "Detective of the Month" in 2017. Let that sink in for a hot second.

"Pride parades?" he continued. "Hey, call the riot teams. We got a bunch of 'em, Get the patty wagon out here, we got a bunch of 'em going to jail, we got a bunch of them that we're gonna get convicted because they've got their pride junk on and they're professing what they are, that they're a filthy animal. After this onslaught, where the government's arresting them and carrying out God's laws and they're all dead…"

And that's only part of it. You can watch five minutes of the sermon here, though I don't actually recommend it.


P.S. The church's website states that the church is "a family integrated church, meaning children of all ages are welcome in our services." So presumably, this extremist, violent hate speech was being delivered to children as well as adults. Lovely.

Grayson Fritts and his church planned a meeting for June 29 at a Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tennessee. The restaurant said, "Nope."

The church website lists a "Small Town Soul Winning" event for June 29 in Cleveland, Tennessee, about 80 miles southwest of Knoxville. Presumably, that's why Fritts and members of his church were planning an event at the local Cracker Barrel in town.

But according to Knox News, Cracker Barrel has turned away Fritts and his gang, citing the chain's zero-tolerance policy for "discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort."

Cracker Barrel said it told the church it couldn't hold its event at their restaurant. "We disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness," the restaurant chain said in a statement. "We serve everyone who walks through our doors with genuine hospitality, not hate, and require all guests to do the same."

For the folks who would say, "But isn't that just Cracker Barrel discriminating against Fritts for his religious beliefs?" No. If the restaurant had said he and his fellow "Christians" couldn't eat there because they were Christian, that would be religious discrimination. It is Fritts' discrimination, hate speech, and advocating of violence that violates the company's policy of service, not his stated religious affiliation.

Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers that pose a threat other customers. No doubt, LGBTQ people eat at Cracker Barrel. Would you feel safe in an enclosed space with a presumably armed man who believes—and tries to convince others—that you should be put to death?

In a capitalist society that values free speech, businesses taking a stand can be a powerful statement.

We can debate all day long about whether hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment, but as of now, it is. One could make the argument that Fritts was inciting violence with his speech—which would make such speech not protected—but the fact that he was advocating for the government to do the violence and not for citizens to take it upon themselves may legally shield him from that argument.

I know that seems weird, but such are the realities of free speech.

However, the First Amendment only protects us from the government squashing our freedom of expression. It does not mean that a business or private entity can't decide that someone's speech is too heinous to allow in their space. Speech is not protected from other people calling you out on what you say. It's not protected from businesses or institutions deciding you're too much of an a-hole to do business with.

No one needs to be tolerant of dehumanization. No one needs to be tolerant of someone calling for innocent people's deaths because of who they are attracted to. No one should stand for that, ever.

Good for Cracker Barrel for making it clear that there is no place for such hatred at their tables.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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