Rabidly Anti-Gay Fla. Pastor’s Bright Idea: ’Burn a Koran Day’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday July 26, 2010

An anti-gay pastor in Gainesville, Florida has come up with a plan to stand firm for righteousness: he's calling on his followers to burn copies of the Qu'ran, the holy book of the Muslim faith.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center has called for the burning of the Qu'ran--spelled with a common variant spelling, Koran, in the title of the church's event, the "International Burn A Koran Day," which is scheduled to take place on September 11.

Text at the church's website describes the Dove World Outreach Center as "a New Testament Church" that is "based on the Bible, the Word of God." The text indicates that the church subscribes to the notion that the end of the world is approaching: "We believe that God is calling a new generation in this end time--a generation of believers that is yielded to his Word and his will.

"Our Land needs strong churches that understand and fulfill God's vision of restoration and reformation," the site's text continues, "churches that are able to handle the revival we will see this century with the apostolic anointing, and bring Godly changes to our entire society."

Among the changes sought by Pastor Jones: "No Homo Mayor," the title of an event organized by Jones' church and slated to take place August 2. The event is a protest against the election of Gainesville's openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe, earlier this year. Lowe was the subject of an anti-gay leafleting campaign during the campaign, which focused on his sexuality. The leaflets asked voters to "Please help to make this town more like San Francisco, CA. Don't let Traditional Values Activist [sic] use scare tactics against you!"

The leaflets told voters that Lowe would support an "agenda" that included "Gays in Women's Restrooms," as well as "Gay Marriage," "Gay Public Sex Education," and "Gay Oriented Churches," among other things.

The "Gays in Women's Restrooms" was seemingly a reference to a Gainesville city ordinance that offers nondiscrimination protections to transgendered residents and allows them access to the restroom that fits their own gender identity. Lowe defended the city's ordinance in 2009 as the leader of a pro-ordinance group, and voters reaffirmed it the ordinance in March of 2009. Critics claimed that sexual predators would use the ordinance as a cover to gain access to women's restrooms and prey upon female victims. When voters affirmed the ordinance, Lowe told the media, "Gainesville is a place that will not allow discrimination. Gainesville has shown itself to be a welcoming place."

However, during the campaign, the Dove World Outreach Center set up signs reading "No Homo Mayor," later shortening that slogan to "No Homo." A year ago, the church set up signs declaring that, "Islam is of the Devil." When one of the church's signs was vandalized on the evening of July 21, the church website sought to pin the act on gays the following day. "This is private property and vandalism is a crime here in America," read the text, going on to say, "In Islam, many actions that we consider to be crimes are encouraged, condoned or sheltered under Islamic teaching and practice, though. Another reason to burn a Koran."

Under the sub-headline "Who dun [sic] it?" the text added, "Free speech is hated by homosexuals and they do not like to hear the truth about their perverted lifestyle." Other entries at the website included a photo album recording a picketing action by the church against a local pornography seller called X Mart. In one photo, a protestor holds a sign reading, "God Hates Luke Warm Churches."

Teh church's website has also posted slogans such as "Haiti must repent," and "Obama is president because he is black," according to an April 6 article at Advocate.com.

The wording and tone of the church's messages are somewhat reminiscent of another church, the Westboro Baptist Church, a congregation based in Topeka, Kansas, which is headed by anti-gay preacher Rev. Fred Phelps and comprised mainly of Phelps' extended family. The Westboro church pickets the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, carrying signs with messages such as, "Thank God for IEDs" and "God Hates America." The group is best known for its anti-gay picketing actions, however, which target the funerals of gays, as sell as schools that produce the play The Laramie Project, which is based on interviews with residents of the Wyoming town were slain gay man Matthew Shepard lived.

The slogan on the "Islam is of the Devil" signs are also the title of a book written by Pastor Jones.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.