The Georgia church where accused spa shooter Robert Aaron Long worshipped throughout his life is removing him from membership and said the killings were the result of a “sinful heart and depraved mind.”
According to a statement from Crabapple First Baptist Church, the suspect, who they call Aaron, grew up worshipping there.
“In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan,” the statement said. “The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”
Long, whom former high school classmates described as a devout Christian, was arrested and charged with killing eight people – six of them Asian women – at multiple spas in the Atlanta-area this week.
Cherokee County authorities said earlier this week that Aaron claimed to have a sex addiction and that they believed he was “lashing out” to eliminate the temptation. Authorities said that Long had frequented the businesses he attacked.
None of the victims have been confirmed to be sex workers, with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms saying, “We are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming,”
Still, the church in their statement alluded to Long’s claimed motivation for the shootings.
“No blame can be placed upon the victims. He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders,” the statement said. “These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”
Officials from the church said it has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.
The church said it has begun a process to remove Long from membership, since it “can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”
The church said that its leaders “repudiate any and all forms of misogyny and racism,” and that violence is unacceptable no matter the motivation.
“We also explicitly denounce any and all forms of hatred or violence against Asians or Asian-Americans,” it said.
Police haven’t ruled out that the attacks may have been racially motivated, as they fall in the middle of a wave of violence against Asian Americans across the US. Atlanta police said that their investigation is ongoing and that “nothing is off the table” in terms of motive for the attacks.
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