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Right Wing Weighs in On Church Shooter

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Jul 30, 2008

The gunman who allegedly killed two people and wounded another six during a shotgun attack on a church congregation said that his rampage at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was intended to target liberals, whom he saw as "ruining the country."

Police searching the home of Jim David Adkisson, who allegedly gunned down members of the UU congregation during a children's production of Annie on July 27, discovered books by conservative celebrities Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, as well as weapons, including a handgun and brass knuckles, reported The Knoxville News Sentinel in a July 28 article.

The article reported that, according to court records, Adkisson stated that the attack was intended to kill liberals.

A report written by a Knoxvill PD officer, Steve Still, who spoke with Adkisson, said that the alleged gunman had targeted the congregation of the Unitarian universalist church "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country," according to the article, which cited a document that had reportedly been obtained by news station WBIR-TV; continued the report, "and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

According to the article, Still heard from Adkisson that since "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement, that he would then target those that had voted them in to office," the Knoxville News Sentinel story reported.

Still also reported that Adkisson said he had expected to die while carrying out his attack on the congregation, which included three rounds fired from a shotgun.

The books found at Adkisson's house included anti-gay radio personality Michael Savage's book Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, as well as books by Fox News pundits Sean Hannity (Let Freedom Ring) and Bill O'Reilly (The O'Reilly Factor), the article said.

According to Police Chief Sterling Owen IV, Adkisson had written a four-page manifesto in which he expressed hatred for "the liberal movement" and "Liberals in general, as well as gays."

Admisson evidently chose the UU church as his target because, Owen said, "It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance."

The church also displays a sign saying that gays are welcome to its services, and hosts PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings.

Adkisson himself does not appear to belong to any church. Said Owen, "In his written statement, he does not ascribe to any affiliation. It does not appear he's a member of any organized group," the newspaper article said.

The police chief added that Adkisson was further angered because he had not been able to get a job.

The document was found in the alleged gunman's vehicle, which was parked in the church lot.

Among the injured were a husband and wife, Jack and Betty Barnhart, 69 and 71 respectively, Jack Barnhart's brother Joe, 76; Allison Lee, 42; Linda Chavez, 41; John Worth, Jr., 68; and Tammy Sommers, 38.

The two fatalities were Linda Kraeger, a 61-year-old visitor from another UU congregation, and 60-year-old Greg McKendry.

The reported sequence of events has Adkisson entering the UU church at around quarter past 10:00 a.m. on the morning of July 28, as the congregation's children were staging a rendition of the musical Annie Jr. Adkisson reportedly carried the shotgun into the church inside a guitar case, then pulled out the gun and blasted three shots into the crowd. Adkisson was then reportedly tackled and restrained by members of the congregation.

Witnesses said that Adkisson walked right past the young performers and aimed his shotgun directly at the pews before firing; the attack was so sudden that for a moment some in the congregation thought the noise from the gun was part of the show, reported the article.

Said UU member Marty Murphy, "We heard the first shot. It sounded like a bomb went off. We thought it was part of the program at first."

Added Murphy, "The second shot is when everyone started calling 911 and telling everyone to get down."

Another witness said that McKendry started toward Adkisson, who shot him down with a gun blast.

Conservatives leapt at the story in the following days, with the Web site Americans for Truth About Homosexuality describing the haste with which that organization sought to head off any suggestion that the shooting should be factored into future deliberations about hate crimes legislation.

The Web site, which greets readers with the message that "Americans for Truth [is] devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda," featured a short article saying that Adkisson should be put to death if he is found guilty.

Declares the site, "'Hate crimes' laws are not necessary to bring killers like this to justice."

Continues the text on the site, which is signed "Peter LaBarbera," "Of course, pro-homosexual activists will seek to exploit this case to win passage of a federal 'hate crimes' law, but as I told an American Family Association reporter today, surely justice can and will be done in this case-possibly including the death sentence that this (alleged) murderer deserves--without the extra help of special 'hate crimes' prosecution."

At Free, which serves largely as a venue for conservatives to chat, the denomination itself was subjected to derision, with bloggers writing comments such as, "What place does 'Annie' have in a worship service. I'd have probably shot up the place too," and, "Unitarian Church. Enough said."

Others logged messages that read, "Yes, an unfortunate story and probably not the time to opine on the effect that that theme song has on me!", and, "It was probably a mini-rally for The Obamassiah and they were singing 'The sun will come out tomorrow ....'."

Continued this posting, "Otherwise, a musical about a poor orphan (Annie) who is befriended by a rich capitalist (Daddy Warbucks), doesn't really fit the UU agenda. Now maybe, if there were a lesbian relationship between Annie and Mommy Warbucks or Annie got pregnant and had to get raise money for an abortion, that would be truly a part of the UU world view."

Another blogger posted a message that seemed to indicate that the church deserved the attack, starting off with a description, in quotations, of the church's creed: "'Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to provide a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion.'"

Continued the post, "In other words, a NEW AGE church."

Added the post, "What do you expect? God is NOT in the center of this church. Human beings are."

One blogger posted a short essay titled, "Unitarian Universalist: Christian or Cult?"

Others debated the merits of carrying concealed weapons to church services, with one blogger pointing out: "concealed carry... highly unlikely at a Unitarian church."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • ex-Wyo, 2008-07-31 09:25:07

    Very well, Kilian. If that’s the way you want to play it, fine. We too can seek out a single hate group to define the full panoply of opinion on your side. In addition, next time you wish to demagogue an issue, we will go off to Koz or Huffington to find some vile and ugly liberal hate speech to throw back in your face. You have the temerity to call what you are doing here journalism? It would be laughable were it not so transparent and jejune.

  • , 2008-07-31 15:33:33

    to ex-Wyo: Dude, chill. Compassion and understanding, friend.

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