I mention these series of articles about the shooting in Paducah because the Religious Reich wants to try to pretend that the shooter was an atheist who was angry at having ritualized cult gatherings at his High School. In fact the shooter was a Christian who took part in the Christian ritual.

As always, my staff and I work to set the record straight and correct the lies Christian masters feel compelled to mouth off for their gods.

Cops Think Shooter Had Help By TED BRIDIS .c The Associated Press

WEST PADUCAH, Ky. (Dec. 3) - The suspect in the shootings of eight students in a high school prayer circle might not have acted alone, the sheriff suggested today.

McCracken County Sheriff Frank Augustus said he had no proof of any plot, only a gut instinct. He said it was unusual that the boy had brought so many guns with him unless he was expecting some help from another student.

''I don't believe this boy planned this out by himself,'' Augustus said. ''I believe there's someone else out there we need to talk to. I think it's another student,'' he said at a news conference.

''I may be totally out of whack here, but I believe there's someone else involved.''

Augustus said earlier that the suspect had smuggled spare ammunition, two rifles and two shotguns into school inside a quilt. The sheriff has said the boy couldn't explain the shootings.

The 17-year-old senior praised for preventing even more bloodshed at Heath High School takes little solace in his courage. Ben Strong wishes he had done more.

Eight students were shot, three fatally, before the gunman obeyed pleas from Strong to put down his pistol. The suspect was Strong's friend, a 14-year-old freshman identified by friends and others as Michael Carneal.

''Dad, I feel guilty,'' Strong told his father after Monday's shootings. ''I didn't react quickly enough.''

The Rev. Bobby Strong, glad his son was alive, answered: ''Benjamin, I believe you did all that you could do.''

Witnesses said Carneal, an unexceptional student with no known discipline problems, fired at least 10 shots from a handgun in the crowded school lobby minutes before classes started. The shots rang out just after about 35 students in an informal prayer group led by Strong said ''amen.''

Principal Bill Bond said the suspect told him he was sorry, and told a teacher who watched him until police arrived: ''It was like I was in a dream, and I woke up.''

Two students remained hospitalized early today. Funeral services for Kayce Steger, 15, Jessica James, 17, and Nicole Hadley, 14 - will be held Friday.

Ann and John Carneal told their minister, the Rev. Paul Donner, that they were stunned and couldn't explain what might have motivated their son to shoot the other students, who included some of his closest friends.

The family declined to talk with reporters. Carneal's sister, a senior, did not attend classes Tuesday.

''They really feel very deeply for the whole community and the other families,'' said Donner, who baptized Carneal as an infant at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

Donner also said Carneal - described by some as a self-professed atheist and an occasional heckler of the prayer group - had been confirmed at church just last spring. Carneal, the minister said, is no atheist.

Carneal was charged as a juvenile with murder, attempted murder and burglary. Authorities said he stole the guns from a neighbor. He faces a hearing next Wednesday on whether the case should be moved to adult court.

The day after the shootings, counseling at the 600-student school took center stage. All but about 50 students returned to the same halls to mourn, lay flowers and silently pray again. Outside, a handwritten sign said, ''We forgive you, Mike.''

Counselors spent the morning talking with students, and teachers did their best to hold regular classes in the afternoon.

''There was very little being said. It was mainly quiet and kids praying,'' guidance counselor Allan Warford said. ''It's a very somber scene inside ... We're going to be looking at long-term counseling for some of these students.''

Some students wore white ribbons in honor of the fallen students. Others wept, hugged their classmates for support and wondered why their friends had died.

''This is going to go on for a long time,'' said Renelle Grubbs of the Kentucky Community Crisis Support Board in Frankfort, which sent counselors to the school. ''This is not going to be over in a day or two.''

Strong led Tuesday's prayer circle, just as he had 24 hours earlier.

''We had just a time of silence for everyone to reflect and pray,'' Strong said. ''I told them God's the only thing we can turn to in a moment like this.

''I could have ran over there and tackled him,'' he said. ''Somehow I didn't act quick enough. In a way, you think, I could have saved a few more people's lives if I had reacted more quickly.

''I guess after I got to thinking about it, besides getting myself shot, there wasn't a whole lot I could do that would have been better.''

AP-NY-12-03-97 1445EST

Copyright 1997 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Right Wing Watch Online Special Edition

People For the American Way's
Right Wing Watch Online, #1.14 December 6, 1997.

Following is a special edition of People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch Online, focusing on a series of right-wing statements in the wake of Monday's shootings in Paducah, Kentucky. Subscription and unsubscription information for Right Wing Watch Online is at the end of the document; subscriptions are free. Please forward to anyone you think might be interested.


Monday's senseless deaths of three teenage children in Paducah, Kentucky, apparently at the hands of a disturbed classmate, have touched off a wave of sympathy from Americans of all walks of life. The grieving families deserve all our support. While most Americans have focused on the tragedy itself, the right wing has sought to exploit the event for political gain.

The Right's rhetoric has exploited the tragedy in two ways. First, some leaders have sought to describe the victims of the crime as martyrs for the cause of religious liberty, children who died in defense of organized prayer in the public schools. Second, some are arguing that the shootings are evidence of the need for prayer in the schools in order to repair the frayed fabric of American society. Tellingly, even though the apparent attacker was reportedly in possession of multiple firearms, the availability of guns seems to play no role in the right wing's interpretation of events.

The Right's motivation in advancing these lines of argument is plain: in its effort to build support for its Christian Nation Amendment to the Constitution -- what it calls the Religious Freedom Amendment -- movement leaders seek to portray Christians as victims of rampant persecution in America. Pat Robertson has compared this 1990s treatment of Christians in America to the situation of Jews during the Holocaust, for example.

Following are several examples of the Right's use of the tragedy:


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