A man with a shotgun entered a church Sunday and opened fire on congregants during a children's play at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. The assailant killed 2 adult parishioners and wounded at least eight others before he was subdued by church members, the New York Times News Service reported.
Jim Adkisson, a 58-year-old unemployed engineer, targeted the congregation because of its outspoken socially liberal and gay-friendly beliefs, police said. According to a four-page manifesto, Adkisson believed the church to be a bastion of liberalism in an otherwise socially conservative area of eastern Tennessee. He had a "stated hatred for the liberal movement" as well as his hatred for gays.
"We're certainly investigating it as a hate crime," Knoxville, Tennessee, police chief Sterling Owen said.
Unitarian Universalist congregations are known for their deep commitment to social justice, supporting the ordination of women, as well as civil rights and gay rights. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church hosts social events for gay and lesbian teens, and has received support from local gay rights groups.
While hate crimes directly against churches have been on the decline for several years, the LGBTQ community continues to be a target for hate groups. According to the FBI, in 2006, 1,472 victims reported being targeted due to a sexual-orientation bias. The Guardian UK also reported:
The FBI logged 7,722 hate crimes in 2006, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available. That is down slightly from 2000. Hate crime attacks at churches are rare, according to FBI statistics. Only 4% in 2006 occurred at places of worship.