The Baptist church where the Atlanta shooting suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was an active member posted a lengthy statement on its website Friday morning that called this week’s attacks on three spas “the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind.”
“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 from Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Ga., said. “The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”
The police said that Mr. Long, 21, told them that he has a sexual addiction, and that the shootings were an attempt to eliminate temptation.
Crabapple First Baptist strictly prohibits sex outside of marriage. Mr. Long had previously checked himself into a Christian rehab clinic in order to combat what he perceived as an addiction.
The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer at two of the spas that were targeted in the attacks, but did not specify whether he had sought anything more than a massage.
The church’s statement placed the blame fully on Mr. Long. “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 church said. “These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”
The church said it was cooperating with law enforcement and that it deeply regretted “the fear and pain Asian-Americans are experiencing as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable actions.”
Mr. Long and his family have been active members of the conservative evangelical church for many years. Mr. Long was baptized there as an adult in 2018, according to a now-deleted Facebook post from the church. The statement on Friday said the church had begun the process of “church discipline” to remove Mr. Long from its membership.