On July 27 a man walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville and opened fire, killing two people and seriously wounding seven others.

As someone who has chosen Unitarian Universalism as her faith, I was shaken by the news. Unitarian Universalism congregations, like ours on Long Island, define themselves as a "liberal religious community" - not liberal in the political sense, but because we believe in open-minded discourse and welcome people of all persuasions.

How could such a community become the target of hate?

Police in Knoxville were quoted as saying that the man, later identified as Jim D. Adkisson, 58, targeted the church "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that ... the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Someone who goes as far as shooting up a church is obviously mentally unbalanced. But where might Adkisson have come up with such ideas?

Might the shooter have heard talk-show host Rush Limbaugh say that "liberalism is the greatest threat this country faces" and "the Islamofascists are actually campaigning for the election of Democrats" and that riots at the Democratic Convention would be "the best damn thing that can happen to this country."

Might the shooter have heard talk-show host Sean Hannity say in 2006, "There are things in life worth fighting and dying for, and one of them is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker."

Worth dying for? Adkisson did tell police he never expected to leave the church alive. Books found in his home included Hannity's "Let Freedom Ring," as well as "Liberalism Is a Mental Health Disorder" by Michael Savage, and "The O'Reilly Factor" by Bill O'Reilly - both outspoken right-wing talk show hosts.

Are these pundits entitled to their beliefs? Of course. And as a firm free-speech supporter, I can't advocate censoring them. But with the Tennessee murders fresh in mind, I can't help wondering: Did their anti-liberal rants help push Adkisson over the edge?

Many of their statements can make even a staunch First Amendment supporter cringe. Here are just a few examples:

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Savage said that rather than "tak[ing] our side should there be some kind of catastrophic attack," Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would "march thousands of us into the hands of the enemy. ... They would gladly take the guns of the American military and turn them first on the American patriot, rather than turning the guns of the American patriot on the enemy within."

O'Reilly has stated that "the far left in America is dominated by haters, people who despise their own country."

David Hudson, a scholar at The First Amendment Center, told me, "The First Amendment protects lots of offensive, repugnant speech." I'd say the above statements fit that description perfectly.

On his radio show, Hannity called the idea that Adkisson's reading list had any connection to the shooting "absurd," stating, "I am very proud of everything I wrote in 'Let Freedom Ring.'"

When I asked Rory O'Connor, author of a study of shock jocks and hate speech, for his take on the shootings, he replied, "Sure, these guys hold some responsibility for what happened, but we all hold responsibility - particularly anyone who hasn't stood up and spoken out against hate speech. We're all contributing to the climate where people are being dehumanized because of their beliefs."

Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, is urging Unitarians to stick to our principles, the first of which is "the inherent worth and dignity of all people. ... This has been part of our mission since . . . abolitionism, continuing through women's suffrage, the civil rights movement, and our current advocacy on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons."

In other words, pretty much everything and everyone the talk show hosts find repugnant.

We'll never know for sure if Adkisson would have done the same thing had a different set of books been on his shelves. Crazy people can always find some inspiration for their actions, be it a book or a dog or a rock band.

My church is calling for members to "continue to stand on the side of love - even, and especially, during these complicated times."

That's the proper stance. But those of us who reject the rhetoric of extreme right pundits can still speak out and try to put pressure on the corporations that air their shows and the advertisers who sponsor them. Censorship, no. Exercising our free speech and spending our dollars in sync with our values, absolutely.