Living Church of God shooting

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To commemorate the shooting, small crosses were put in the snow across town.[1]
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On March 12, 2005 at the Living Church of God in Brookfield, Wisconsin,[2] 44-year-old parishioner Terry Ratzmann killed a minister and six other churchgoers with a Beretta 9mm before committing suicide at a nearby Sheraton hotel. He was stated to have been upset with his professional life and reacted to a sermon he had heard at the church two weeks prior.[3]

Why is this notable?[edit]

While mass shootings in the United States are (unfortunately) not uncommon, there are several factors in the Living Church of God shooting that make it stand apart from other shootings, such as school shootings like Columbine High School and the Sandy Hook massacre or the Jared Lee Loughner shooting in Tucson involving Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Absence of religious punditry[edit]

Do a Google search for "Terry Ratzmann" or "Living Church of God shooting", and what kind of results do you get? News articles and condolences. Do a search for any other shooting? Mass hysteria, moral panic, outrage and manufactroversy from the religious right, and all kinds of speculations and wingnuttery from idiots like Bryan Fischer, Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter and the Westboro Baptist Church.

School shooting? Oh, it must be because of the absence of God, or school prayer, or maybe gaysdidit. Church shooting? Crickets.

Interestingly enough, this would have been the perfect time to have made a True Christian argument, as the Living Church of God, being a rather extreme and literalist offshoot of the more extreme Worldwide Church of God, would be considered extreme even by the more extreme Christian sects. But no, not a chirp.

Some obscure fundies (namely, Pastor Bob Thiel) had a gripe to pick with how the community mourned, saying no "true Christian" would put up crosses (a supposedly pagan symbol, never mind the fact that the cross has been associated with Christianity since the 3rd century CE).[4] As of 2015, a full ten years after the massacre took place, there were hardly any memorials by the Christian community.[1]

Breaking the gun control arguments[edit]

At the same time, you won't find any arguments or statements from gun nuts such as the National Rifle Association about how fewer people would have died if there had been an armed church member there to stop Ratzmann, because, well, there weren't any statements made.

On the other side of the gun control debate, the legally-acquired handgun that was used in the shooting has a standard 15-round clip. Furthermore, police reports indicate that Ratzmann fired 22 rounds at the church.[5] This means that he fired fifteen rounds, reloaded, and then fired off seven more before ending the shooting spree by committting suicide.[Note 1]

So the argument against restricting assault rifles falls apart here, but so does the argument that a 9mm is "really only used for self defense" and lacking the power to kill.

Because it was in a church[edit]

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins mentions that for some reason religion receives an amount of undeserved respect when it comes to debate or argument, and for no real apparent reason. Topics such as how to best prepare children for adult life or which economic policies achieve the best results can be argued forever, but religion is out of bounds. Perhaps a shooting that occurs in church, the victims and location being religious in nature, unconsciously received some of that same respect.

Could it be that those who would have spoken out the loudest simply wanted to respect the tragedy and not judge people? Possibly. But that's never stopped them before.


  1. Note that this doesn't mean he missed fifteen times.