(Photo: AP Images)
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said violent incidents like Friday's deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn., have increased not due to gun laws, but because of the "systematic removal of God" from schools – echoing the view of some Christian groups.
"We ask why there's violence in our school but we've systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate, said on Fox News Saturday, the day after 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and killed 20 children and six adults.
"Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability," said Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
"That we're not just gonna have to be accountable to the police if they catch us but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that," Huckabee added. "People are going to want to pass new laws... [but] This is a heart issue ... laws don't change this kind of thing."
As families claimed bodies of their loved ones on Saturday, Connecticut chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II said all the victims had been hit with bullets more than once – some even six times. Bodies had wounds "all over," he said of the 12 girls and eight boys – all six or seven years old – and the six women who had been killed in the shooting.
Lanza, whom family friends said suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, a mental disorder, killed his mother at their home in Newtown before the mass shooting and finally turned the gun on himself.
Huckabee concluded that "we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn't have to call him to show up when it's all said and done at the back end."
Huckabee, an ABC Radio political commentator and a Fox News host, had a similar response on the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting in July. "We don't have a crime problem, or a gun problem, or even a violence problem," he had then said on Fox News. "What we have is a sin problem. And since we've ordered God out of our schools and communities; the military and public conversations... we really shouldn't act so surprised when all hell breaks loose."
Some Christian groups have also been saying that the rise in violence can be linked to lack of religion.
Dr. Alex McFarland, director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at the Christian Worldview Center of North Greenville University in Greenville, S.C., said in a statement that the Newtown shooting was "utmost disrespect" for human life.
"Some have used the day's tragedy to promote conversations about gun control and other political agendas, but these emphases miss the heart of the issue," said McFarland, founder of Project 2026, a 15-year initiative to return Biblical principles to American society, on Friday.
The true source of the problem, he said, is morality. "We must return to the source of absolute truth – God and His Word – and recognize that abolishing of these Biblical principles from our society leaves the opportunity for pure evil to take root and the result can be what we saw today: the worst school massacre in our nation's history."
Dr. Karl Benzio, founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network, a Christian addiction and mental health helpline provider, underlined the need for God even in the process of healing after incidents like the Sandy Hook shooting.
"This incident demonstrates the need that our society has for our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. It is only through His grace and mercy that this community and our nation will be able to experience lasting healing after such tragedy as this," Benzio said in a statement. "It is the Biblical lens that we want to each person see this tragedy through. People should lean on the power of Christ to deal with the pain that is inevitable during this extreme adversity."
Benzio also raised the issue of media exploitation of victims of violence. "When a catastrophe of this magnitude occurs, parents, schools, and the community need to shield these kids to help them process this event, so that the effects do not haunt them for years," he said. "Doing so can cause additional mental health damage and increase the risks of addiction or other destructive coping behaviors," he warned.