Earlier this week, we reported on a county commission in Tennessee that declined to issue a strongly worded statement in response to a detective who delivered a sermon at his church earlier this month that called for the execution of members of the LGBTQ community.
According to Knox News, Knox County (TN) Sheriff's Detective Grayson Fritts—who is also a pastor at a local church—delivered a sermon in early June in which he said that the government should execute members of the LGBTQ community.
When I first came across that news item, my immediate thought was, "No way. That cannot be true. No cop would think that, much less say it out loud in front of a congregation of people."
So I did what any good reporter would do and found other sources confirming the recent report—there were previous articles detailing the incident.
According to what I was able to glean, Fritts delivered an hour-long sermon in which he called for federal, state, and county governments to arrest, try, convict, and "speedily" execute people within the LGBTQ community.
The church reportedly posted the sermon to YouTube but that video has since been deleted for violating YouTubes's hate speech policy.
After reading about the fact that a video existed, I wanted to see it for myself, but I also knew that seeing it would infuriate me further, so it's probably for the best that it was gone by the time I learned of it.
The county commission failed to issue a statement on the matter.
I won't make that same mistake.
Following a brief preamble, you can read my open letter to Mr. Fritts, followed by some final thoughts about LGBTQ individuals on the Thin Blue Line.
Straight Scribe Supporting LGBTQ
I'm as straight as any American male can be—I have not the least bit of interest in a relationship with another man other than friendship and/or brotherhood.
I like women—a lot—and don't get the attraction to men.
But I don't begrudge or belittle a man's love for another man, nor do I dismiss or diminish a woman's desire to be with another woman.
I sincerely don't care, because your bedroom activities have zero effect on my life.
You do you.
I live in the Center of the Universe for the LGBTQ community—the Castro District in San Francisco.
My house is the only structure on my street with an American flag on display—every other flag is the rainbow flag signifying Gay Pride.
I look at that American flag in my window proudly—and I use that word "proud" with purpose and intention—knowing that myriad soldiers fought and died so that the men and women who have different sexual preferences can exercise their freedoms.
American freedoms were established in the Declaration of Independence, the signing of which we will be celebrating in the next few weeks.
That document reads:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Those words mean the world to me.
Those words apply to every American citizen, including members of the LGBTQ community.
An Open Letter
To Knox County Sheriff's Detective Grayson Fritts,
I get it—your religious beliefs oppose homosexuality.
I have many Christian friends who don't approve of same-sex stuff—whether that is gay marriage or other "non-traditional" relationships.
I get it. You're a preacher in a church in your off-time, and have a pulpit from which you can say anything you wish.
That's your First Amendment right, as I wrote last week about police officers' social media posts.
But calling for the death of any individual—much less a whole population of people—simply for their sexual orientation is unconscionable.
Mr. Fritts, you swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America, and in your statements—albeit off-duty—you violated that oath.
You don't belong in the sworn ranks.
You have no Constitutional protection ensuring your employment as a law enforcement officer, and you don't deserve to be among the protectors of our citizens.
As it stands, you have been removed from duty and your contract has been bought out.
Not good enough for me.
You should be stripped of your law enforcement status.
You don't belong on the Thin Blue Line.
You don't belong anywhere near it.
Your statements were unacceptable and inconsistent with the oath to protect and serve your community.
Your statements were anathema to what every cop I know—and I know hundreds of cops—stands for.
Those guys and gals stand for serving and protecting EVERYONE.
You, sir, clearly, do not.
You do not represent the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers who in the commission of their duties sincerely do not see color, creed, sexual preference, or any other label.
They see only people who are suspected of committing a crime, or people who were the victim of a crime, or were witnesses to a crime.
I don't trust you to do the same.
The LEOs I know don't want a whole group of the American population to be executed for who they love or are attracted to romantically or sexually. Like me, they may not understand the attraction. They may not approve of it for religious reasons. But they're not calling for state-sanctioned mass-murder.
Those officers and deputies deserve better than what you said.
Calling for the deaths of individuals based on their sexual orientation is—in my opinion—cause for immediate and permanent dismissal from the ranks.
Good day, sir.
I have numerous gay and lesbian LEO friends. It's encouraging that—now that modern, mature thinking has taken root—they don't seem to get as much "flack" from fellow-officers for being who they are.
Perhaps that perception is a function of living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'd like to think it's more about expanding open-mindedness across the country, but regardless, I see the imminent demise of intolerance of LGBTQ officers.
I see increasing acceptance.
I see more appreciation of the "why" someone does the job, and not the "who" of the men and women who put their lives on the line every tour.
I see men and women who have purpose and persistence on every shift, regardless of sexual orientation.
Next week marks the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City—not the best moment for police interaction with the gay community.
In fact, it was awful.
But a half century later, the profession has matured, advanced, and improved.
Uniformed police officers now march in annual Gay Pride Parades—something that would be unheard-of in 1969.
Those officers show—without a shadow of a doubt—that they are heroes to their communities, especially to young people in the LGBTQ community who dream of serving and protecting.
The profession has come a long way since Stonewall.
But statements from people like Knox County Sheriff's Detective Grayson Fritts show that we have some way to go.