The 21-year-old man accused of killing eight people, mostly women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta massage parlors last week has been removed from the membership of his church as the congregation’s leaders say they “can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”
Crabapple First Baptist Church in Fulton County released a statement announcing that it “has completed the process of church discipline to remove Robert Aaron Long from membership.”
“We want to be clear that this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word,” the statement reads. “Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan.”
Seven of the eight people Long killed last Tuesday were women, and six were of Asian descent. Two of the victims were white.
Long told law enforcement that he would regularly visit two of the massage parlors he attacked, The Washington Post reported, adding that police had identified the spas as places where sex work and possible sexual exploitation regularly occurred.
The suspect told police he saw the people who worked at the spas as “temptations” he needed to “eliminate.” After commenters online were quick to criticize the Southern Baptist culture and teachings on sexual immorality, the church’s statement assured that Long’s actions are “a total repudiation of our faith and practice…”
“[A]nd such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel,” the statement adds.
The church also assured that it does not teach that “acts of violence are acceptable against certain ethnicities or against women.” Additionally, the church rejected the notion that it teaches that “women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them.”
“Each person is responsible for his or her own sin,” the church’s statement explains. “In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted.”
The church called murder a “heinous evil and grievous sin” and denounced “any and all forms of hatred or violence against Asians or Asian-Americans.”
“Scripture teaches and we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God. Every person is worthy of respect,” the statement details. “All people are equal in dignity, value, and worth. We repudiate any and all forms of misogyny and racism. We categorically reject the idea that violence is appropriate, regardless of one’s issues or motivations.”
The church also stated that it does not blame the victims.
“He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires,” the statement adds. “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. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”
Crabapple First Baptist has taken down its website and social media, explaining it “feared for the safety of members of our church community.”
Long has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Many are demanding that hate crime be added to his charges. However, authorities said last week that they have not yet found enough evidence that clears the high bar for hate crime charges, according to The Associated Press.
Crabapple First Baptist says it is cooperating with law enforcement and denied that Long’s father ever worked for the church.
Victims include 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng, 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan, 74-year-old Soon Chung Park, 69-year-old Suncha Kim, 63-year-old Yong Ae Yue and 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant, who was a single mother.
A GoFundMe page has raised more than $2.7 million for Grant's two sons — 22-year-old Randy Park and his 21-year-old brother, Eric.
“I have no time to grieve for long,” Randy Park wrote on the page. “I will need to figure out the living situation for my brother and I for the next few months, possibly year.”
Park’s GoFundMe page is not the only one raising funds for the families of the shooting victims. According to USA Today, as much as $3.5 million has been raised to support victims' families.
The GoFundMe page supporting the family of Kim has raised over $150,000. Meanwhile, pages established to support the families of Yaun and Yue have both raised over $100,000. A GoFundMe page for Michel’s family has raised over $60,000. A page set up to support Tan’s daughter has raised over $3,000.