GAINESVILLE — Dove World Outreach Center pastor Terry Jones on Saturday burned copies of the Quran and an image depicting Muhammad in front of his church to protest the imprisonment in Iran of a Christian clergyman.
Moments later, Gainesville Fire Rescue issued the church a citation for violating the city’s fire ordinances.
Saturday’s act of protest took place in spite of published reports that the Pentagon had urged Jones to reconsider, expressing concern that American soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere could be put at greater risk because of the act.
A little more than a year ago, on March 20, 2011, Dove World assistant pastor Wayne Sapp burned a copy of the Quran and broadcast it on the Internet. Reports and images of the Quran burning incited violence in northern Afghanistan in which at least 12 people were killed. Days later, a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform shot dead two American military personnel.
Dove World denied responsibility then for the deaths.
About 20 people gathered Saturday on church property at 5805 NW 37th St. about 5 p.m. for the planned burning. Several Gainesville police officers were stationed across the street from the church or were patrolling the area. A few people watched the scene, but there were no protesters.
Jones and another pastor demanded the release of the Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from an Iranian prison. Jones said Nadarkhani faces execution.
Jones spoke at a podium that was far enough away that he could not be heard by people along 37th Street. The event was streamed live over the Internet.
After the speeches, copies of the Islamic holy book and an image depicting Muhammad were burned at about 5:50 p.m. in a portable fire pit. Shortly afterward, officers in two Gainesville Police Department cars drove onto the property. With them was a GFR official, who issued the citation.
Fire Chief Gene Prince, contacted by The Sun afterward, said Jones had approval for a burn but did not have the required authorization to burn books. Prince said Gainesville has restrictive fire ordinances, adding that books cannot be burned without authorization because of environmental concerns over the burning of glue and bindings in books.
The fine is $271, which includes court costs, Prince said.
Several onlookers watched the event from across 37th Street. Some said they wished Jones and Dove World would stop its activities or relocate, while others noted that Jones has a constitutional right to protest.
Jones first drew attention in July 2009, when he placed signs reading “Islam is of the Devil” on church property and when students who belong to the church later wore T-shirts with the words to public schools.
In September 2010, he drew international focus with a plan to burn Qurans. The U.S. government warned of reprisals against military in Iraq and Afghanistan if the burning took place. President Barack Obama and the Vatican, among others, condemned the plan, which Jones later called off.
(www.ocala.com / 29.04.2012)