Gainesville pastor behind Quran burning plans Tampa rally
TAMPA – The preacher from Gainesville who had wanted to burn copies of the Quran will host a rally at the Tampa Convention Center this weekend.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center said he hopes his “Stand Up America” event encourages Christians to take action for their beliefs.
“We’re challenging churches to stand up for what they believe in,” Jones said this morning. “If it’s against abortion, hold a protest. Don’t complain about the government or how it’s run, write your congressman.”
The pastor said he will cover a broad range of topics. Islam, he said, will definitely be one of them.
“It’s not as it was during International Burn a Koran Day,” Jones said. “But it will always be an issue.”
Jones and his church sparked worldwide controversy when he wanted to burn 200 copies of the Quran, Islam’s holiest book, on the nine-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Leaders of world faiths condemned his actions. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called his small church in northwest Gainesville urging him to cancel the Quran burning because they feared the action would endanger U.S. troops in the Middle East.
Jones backed off on the threat two days before the burning after he was promised a meeting with New York imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to talk about moving an Islamic center and mosque away from the ground zero site.
The meeting never happened, but Jones said he is hopeful he will get a chance to talk with Rauf one day.
Jones said he is also confident that he will be able to sell his sanctuary and surrounding property in Gainesville so he can move his church to the Tampa Bay area by the end of the year.
“That’s still a go,” Jones said. “We haven’t found a location yet. We’re in the process of looking. But maybe the rally will open doors for us.”
Tampa is the first stop on a nationwide tour. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the convention center in downtown Tampa.
Tourism officials have received complaints about Jones’ appearance, but nothing out of the ordinary, Santiago Corrada, Tampa’s Convention Center, Tourism, Recreation and Cultural Arts administrator said.
“It hasn’t been a huge outcry,” Corrada said. “He has every right to speak. He has every right to pay the fees. We’ll treat him like a regular customer.”
Corrada declined to reveal the amount the church is paying to rent a ballroom in the convention center.
Jones said he will also have rallies in Nashville, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and California.
Jones, who received more than 100 death threats when he planned to burn Qurans, said he has asked local law enforcement to provide extra security at Sunday’s event.
Dove World has hired one sergeant and three officers for the rally, Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
The church will pay the officers about $34 an hour and the sergeant slightly more, McElroy said. Off-duty patrol officers will be on call if more security is needed.