Accused Atlanta gunman was a patient at an evangelical treatment center


The evangelical facility, HopeQuest in Acworth, Ga., sits in a secluded forest on the finish of a residential road about 30 miles outdoors Atlanta and down the highway from Younger’s Asian Therapeutic massage. Police say that after killing 4 individuals and wounding a fifth there, Lengthy drove 27 miles to 2 extra spas in Atlanta the place he fatally shot 4 extra individuals.

HopeQuest has ties to main evangelical establishments and has promoted “ex-gay remedy,” the concept individuals can change into heterosexual by way of counseling. Lengthy, 21, who grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist church, was a affected person on the remedy facility in 2019 and once more in 2020, in accordance with his former roommate Tyler Bayless.

Police stated Lengthy was a buyer on the two Atlanta-based spas that he additionally focused. He has been charged with eight counts of homicide and murder and one rely of aggravated assault within the March 17 assaults that left eight individuals useless, most of them Asian girls.

The evangelical facility HopeQuest advertises its providers for treating “intercourse habit” and “pornography habit,” alongside a number of descriptions for what it believes these addictions might embody. Bayless stated Lengthy blamed his descent into habit on pornography and used a flip telephone as an alternative of a smartphone to keep away from temptation on-line.

Most evangelical church buildings, together with Southern Baptist church buildings, train that intercourse is permitted solely inside heterosexual marriages, related instructing to the Catholic Church and different Christian traditions.

Nonetheless, a number of specialists have stated this week that Lengthy’s ties to evangelicalism shine a lightweight right into a subculture referred to as “purity tradition,” a perception amongst some evangelicals that promotes the concept any sexual need outdoors of marriage is lustful, and due to this fact sinful. Some evangelicals are taught from a younger age to regulate their sexual urges and if they can’t, they’re generally labeled intercourse addicts or porn addicts.

HopeQuest is affiliated with a number of giant evangelical church buildings in and round Atlanta, together with the North Level megachurch and the historic First Baptist Church of Woodstock. With a number of counselors licensed by the state of Georgia, it is usually a “skilled” affiliate of the evangelical group Deal with the Household.

Along with its work with sufferers on “intercourse habit,” HopeQuest was as soon as a scorching spot for what some name “conversion remedy” and “ex-gay” rehabilitation. The founder and creator of HopeQuest, Roy Blankenship, was as soon as thought of one of many nation’s foremost conversion therapists.

Blankenship thought of himself “ex-gay” and served on the board of the “ex-gay” Exodus Worldwide group, which was disbanded in 2013. After 22 years, Blankenship retired as chair of the board at HopeQuest in December 2018. He renounced conversion remedy and publicly got here out as homosexual the next yr. Blankenship nonetheless provides remedy providers on his web site, together with for “intercourse habit.”

Blankenship advised The Put up he’s now not concerned with HopeQuest however declined to remark additional.

The present director of scientific packages at HopeQuest is Wayne Carriker, who considers himself ex-gay and has promoted conversion remedy. A since-removed biography on the HopeQuest web site stated Carriker had “embraced homosexuality and a way of life of habit that led him to jail.” Carriker joined the workforce of HopeQuest in 2011 after his launch from jail and receiving a grasp’s diploma from Wheaton Faculty outdoors Chicago.

A HopeQuest staffer, who declined to supply his title, declined to remark additional on behalf of the power.

On its web site, the HopeQuest facility posts a query, “How can I do know if my husband is scuffling with sexual habit?” One of many solutions consists of, “You discover receipts for sexually-related actions or purchases (i.e. drinks at a strip membership, grownup video rental, grownup movies charged to lodge payments, and many others.).”

“Though most males battle with lustful ideas, appearing on these ideas — whether or not by way of fantasy and masturbation, utilizing pornography or precise contact with one other individual — is at all times hurtful to God and damaging to the wedding,” the web site states. “The battle with sexual ideas and behaviors turns into problematic when a person chooses to make use of his sexuality to aim to satisfy wants for nurture, consolation, solace, significance and safety outdoors of the wedding.”

In some evangelical church buildings, sexual conduct outdoors heterosexual marriage is typically handled as a illness that may be fastened with the right scriptural counseling.

Sexual sin performs an outsized function in lots of evangelical church buildings, stated Sheila Wray Gregoire, the Canadian creator of “The Nice Intercourse Rescue,” a guide about lies Christian girls have been taught about intercourse. In common evangelical literature, she discovered, girls are taught to have intercourse with their husbands when they need it so that they gained’t watch porn. They’re additionally taught that every one males battle with lust.

“Girls usually are not seen as individuals however as enemy who must be defeated,” she stated.

Earlier this week, a sheriff’s division official stated that Lengthy seen the spas he allegedly focused as “a temptation for him that he wished to eradicate.” In evangelical literature, girls are sometimes handled as a sexual risk or seen as sexual success, stated Rachel Pleasure Welcher, Iowa-based creator of the guide “Speaking Again to Purity Tradition.”

“They’re telling them to not lust, however the resolution is to keep away from girls till they get married and channel all of your sexual power into your spouse,” she stated. “Wives are depicted as sexual retailers.”

Bayless, who was Lengthy’s roommate at Maverick Restoration, a sober-living facility in Roswell, Ga., in 2019 and 2020 within the months between his stays at HopeQuest, stated Lengthy felt his very salvation was at stake, as he advised his roommate that he was “residing in sin” and “not strolling within the mild; he was strolling in darkness.”

Bayless was making an attempt to recuperate from an alcohol and drug habit, and Lengthy was there for what he referred to as “intercourse habit.”

“He was militant about it,” Bayless stated. “This was the form of man who would hate himself for masturbating, would take into account {that a} relapse.”

Some scientists have questioned whether or not “intercourse habit” must be used to diagnose a psychological dysfunction.

Residents at Maverick have been inspired to carry one another accountable, Bayless says, and no less than thrice Lengthy referred to as Bayless into his room so he might confess his sins. Bayless stated Lengthy got here again from a spa and referred to as him into his room saying he was having suicidal ideas.

“He would say, ‘I’m falling out of the grace of God and my pastor,’” Bayless stated, and Lengthy prompt church leaders agreed with him.

Crabapple First Baptist Church stated in a press release on its web site that it was devastated and grieving over the deaths, acknowledging that Lengthy’s members of the family have been church members for a few years. Lengthy was accepted into membership, however the church stated his actions straight contradict his confession of religion.

“He alone is accountable for his evil actions and wishes,” the church’s assertion stated of Lengthy. “The ladies that he solicited for sexual acts usually are not accountable for his perverse sexual wishes nor do they bear any blame in these murders.”

A spokesman for the church stated it will not remark additional.

Bayless says that he urged Lengthy to hunt psychiatric or psychological counseling, however he refused.

Bailey reported from New York.


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