CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tennessee, refused to host Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Grayson Fritts and his church group, citing the restaurant chain's zero-tolerance policy for "discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort."
Fritts and his independent Baptist church in Knoxville had planned a meeting at the Cracker Barrel on June 29.
Cracker Barrel said it was not affiliated in any way with Fritts and his church "and we disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness," the Tennessee-based national restaurant chain said in a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday.
The chain said it told the church its 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," the restaurant said.
In early June, Fritts thrust himself and his church into the spotlight with a series of recorded sermons in which he advocated for government authorities — including the Knox County Sheriff's Office, where he works — to execute LGBTQ people.
Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said Fritts would not be fired for his comments, citing a fear of lawsuits. Fritts remains on paid sick leave with the county sheriff's office until he collects his buyout in July.
Cracker Barrel said its corporate policy "strictly prohibits" any type of protest or public demonstration on its property or in its stores.
"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," the release said. "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 is not affiliated in any way with Mr. Fritts or All Scripture Baptist, and we are not hosting any event on June 29th. Please see our full statement below. pic.twitter.com/3PIfND8xiJ— Cracker Barrel (@CrackerBarrel) June 18, 2019
Protesters brought event to restaurant chain's attention
David Tierney, of Knoxville, said protesters spoke to the restaurant and organized a demonstration outside Cracker Barrel for the event.
"It is a small victory for our community and it took a lot of work for us to even get this accomplished," said Tierney, who identifies as gay and genderqueer.
The Tennessee Democratic Party also sent the restaurant a letter, asking Cracker Barrel to turn Fritts away.
In the letter, Mary Mancini, party chairwoman, urged Cracker Barrel Chief Executive Sandra Cochrane to uphold the inclusivity and diversity pledges listed on the restaurant's website.
"This is all started as an online campaign and action, organized by direct message (online), then grew into a real action, and then got picked up by the states Democratic Party," Tierney said. "It really just spread like wildfire over the course of 5 days."
Follow Brittany Crocker on Twitter: @brittcrocker
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Cracker Barrel turns away Grayson Fritts, detective who called for LGBTQ executions in Tennessee