Cracker Barrel restaurants were once infamous for a homophobic employment policy, but now the company has declined to let a minister who urged the execution of LGBTQ people to hold an event at one of its locations.
Grayson Fritts, pastor of All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., had planned to hold an event for his congregation at the Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tenn., June 29, CNN reports. Fritts has become notorious for a sermon he gave June 2 saying, “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.”
Fritts is also a detective with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, but is on sick leave and planning to take early retirement in July. The sheriff’s office is reviewing his record, and the county prosecutor is investigating him as well.
Mary Mancini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, contacted Cracker Barrel’s corporate headquarters in Lebanon, Tenn., when she heard about the event, CNN reports. She noted Fritts’s hateful sermon and the fact that he is under investigation, and she pointed out that the company has a “diversity and inclusion” policy.
Cracker Barrel responded by saying it will not allow Fritts or his group on site and that company officials “disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness.” The statement, posted to Twitter, added, “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.”
Cracker Barrel has changed significantly in the past few decades. In 1991 it adopted a policy calling for the termination of employees “whose sexual preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society.” That led to boycotts and protests around the nation. It later revoked the policy, saying it was a “well-intentioned overreaction to the perceived values of our customers,” and in 2002 it added sexual orientation to the characteristics covered by the company’s nondiscrimination policy. Now, as part of its diversity and inclusion program, it offers several employee resource groups, including one for LGBTQ workers.