FFRF condemns shooting deaths attributed to purported atheist

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is horrified by the fatal shootings of three Muslim students who died yesterday near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Fox News is reporting that their murder was "motivated by an ongoing dispute over a parking space, despite widespread speculation the victims were targeted by an avowed atheist because of their Muslim faith, police said."

Craig Hicks, who has been apprehended as the suspect, has been widely identified in the press as a "hardcore anti religion progressive." Media have found he had many Facebook "likes," including Huffington Post, Rachel Maddow, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, marriage equality groups, plus "a host of anti-conservative/Tea Party pages."

FFRF can verify that Craig Hicks is not a member of FFRF, nor has he contacted us for information. He is not in our database. Anyone can "like" a group or person on Facebook. FFRF and all the groups and individuals named above have no control over that.

We are very sorry to see someone identified as nonreligious in the news for a violent crime. Such an action is almost unheard of in the freethought world. Mental instability is no respecter of persons, and happens in all walks of life.

FFRF has already taken press calls on this, and must point out that in a world roiled daily by violence in the name of religion, including commonplace personal tragedies as well as terrorism and theopolitical warfare, it would be almost unheard of for media to place religious leaders on the spot. When a crazed dad kills his children "to send them to heaven," media don't contact local or national denominational heads seeking a statement on their religion's role in this violence. On the contrary, Pope Francis blamed the Charlie Hebdo victims of Islamist terrorism, saying such violence was the result of "making fun of the faith of others."

No one should be targeted because of their religion or irreligion. We deplore all gun violence, which unfortunately occurs on a daily basis in the United States.

Our heartfelt condolences to the grieving families of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, of Chapel Hill, N.C., and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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