Sep 8, 2010 3:40 PM by Melissa Canone
RANT: We'd like your opinion on this hot button issue. Email your thoughts to email@example.com. We could air your RANT tonight!
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The government turned up the pressure
Tuesday on the head of a small Florida church who plans to burn
copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, warning him that doing so could
endanger U.S. troops and Americans everywhere.
But the Rev. Terry Jones insisted he would go ahead with his
plans, despite criticism from the top U.S. general in Afghanistan,
the White House and the State Department, as well as a host of
Jones, who is known for posting signs proclaiming that Islam is
the devil's religion, says the Constitution gives him the right to
publicly set fire to the book that Muslims consider the word of
Gen. David Petraeus warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The
Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would
undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the
world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence." It was a
rare example of a military commander taking a position on a
domestic political matter.
Jones responded that he is also concerned but is "wondering,
'When do we stop?"' He refused to cancel the protest set for
Saturday at his Dove World Outreach Center, a church that espouses
an anti-Islam philosophy.
"How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?"
Jones told the AP. "Instead of us backing down, maybe it's to time
to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam
that we will not tolerate their behavior."
Still, Jones said he will pray about his decision.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the administration
hoped Americans would stand up and condemn the church's plan.
"We think that these are provocative acts," Crowley said. "We
would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is
inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions
themselves are un-American."
Crowley said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may
address the controversy at a dinner Tuesday evening in observance
of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast during the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan.
At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed the concerns
raised by Petraeus. "Any type of activity like that that puts our
troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration,"
Gibbs told reporters.
Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats and has
started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip.
The 58-year-old minister said the death threats started not long
after he proclaimed in July that he would stage "International
Burn-a-Quran Day." Supporters have been mailing copies of the
Islamic holy text to his church to be incinerated in a bonfire.
Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety
last year when he posted signs in front of his small church
declaring "Islam is of the Devil." But his Quran-burning scheme
attracted wider attention. It drew rebukes from Muslim nations and
an avalanche of media interview requests just as an emotional
debate was taking shape over the proposed Islamic center near the
ground zero site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
The Quran, according to Jones, is "evil" because it espouses
something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent
behavior among Muslims.
"It's hard for people to believe, but we actually feel this is
a message that we have been called to bring forth," he said last
week. "And because of that, we do not feel like we can back
Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and insist it
be treated with the utmost respect, along with any printed material
containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad.
Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is deeply
Jones' Dove Outreach Center is independent of any denomination.
The church follows the Pentecostal tradition, which teaches that
the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in the modern day. Pentecostals
often view themselves as engaged in spiritual warfare against
At first glance, the church looks like a warehouse rather than a
place of worship. A stone facade and a large lighted cross adorn
the front of the beige steel building, which stands on 20 acres in
Gainesville's leafy northern suburbs. Jones and his wife, Sylvia,
live on the property and also use part of it to store furniture
that they sell on eBay.
A broad coalition of religious leaders from evangelical, Roman
Catholic, Jewish and Muslim organizations met in Washington on
Tuesday and condemned the plan to burn the Quran as a violation of
"This is not the America that we all have grown to love and
care about," said Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for
Public Affairs. "We have to stand up for our Muslim brothers and
sisters and say, "This is not OK."'
FBI agents have visited with Jones to discuss concern for his
safety. Multiple Facebook pages with thousands of members have
popped up hailing him as a hero or blasting him as a dangerous
The world's leading Sunni Muslim institution of learning,
Al-Azhar University in Egypt, accused the church of stirring up
hate and discrimination, and called on other American churches
speak out against it.
Last month, Indonesian Muslims demonstrated outside the U.S.
Embassy in Jakarta, threatening violence if Jones goes through with
In this progressive Florida city of 125,000 anchored by the
sprawling University of Florida campus, the lanky preacher with the
bushy white mustache is mostly seen as a fringe character who
doesn't deserve special attention.
At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim
organizations in Gainesville have mobilized to plan inclusive
events - some will read from the Quran at their own weekend
services - to counter what Jones is doing. A student group is
organizing a protest across the street from the church on Sept. 11.
Gainesville's new mayor, Craig Lowe, who during his campaign
became the target of a Jones-led protest because he is openly gay,
has declared Sept. 11 Interfaith Solidarity Day in the city.
Jones dismisses the response of the other churches as
"cowardly." He said even if they think burning Qurans is extreme,
Christian ministers should be standing with him in denouncing the
principles of Islam.
All the attention has caused other problems for Jones, too. He
believes it's the reason his mortgage lender has demanded full
payment of the $140,000 still owed on the church property. He's
seeking donations to cover it, but recently listed the property for
sale with plans to eventually move the church away from
The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit for
Sept. 11, but he said lawyers have told him his right to burn
Qurans is protected by the First Amendment, with or without the
The same would hold true, he said, if Muslims wanted to burn
Bibles in the front yard of a mosque.
"Of course, I would not like it," Jones said. But "I
definitely would not threaten to kill them, as we have been