The controversy over the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan has sparked a wave of anti-Muslim activism among some conservative and religious groups, and nowhere is that more in evidence than in a non-denominational church's plan to hold a "Burn a Koran Day" on the next anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Muslim advocacy groups and evangelical Christian organizations alike have condemned the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, for its plans to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a day for burning Islam's holy book. And at least one jihadist organization has promised revenge if the event goes ahead as planned.
"On September 11th, 2010, from 6pm - 9pm, we will burn the Koran on the property of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam," says the church's Facebook page. "Islam is of the devil!"
The church has drawn condemnation from the National Association of Evangelicals, which said in a statement that "Burn a Koran Day" shows "disrespect for our Muslim neighbors and would exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims throughout the world."
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It sounds like the proposed Koran burning is rooted in revenge," NAE President Leith Anderson said. "Yet the Bible says that Christians should Ã¢â‚¬Ëœmake sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone elseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢."
The church's plans have grabbed the attention of the Islamist movement. Members of the al-Falluja online forum have reportedly promised to "spill rivers of your (American) blood" if the event goes forward.
But the church is holding steadfast in its position.
"We believe that Islam is ... causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times," Pastor Terry Jones told CNN.
The church has also stirred controversy with its plans to protest Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, who is openly gay. And some former church members have accused the leadership of using the church's tax-exempt status for profit.
The Gainesville Sun reported earlier this month:
Former church members who have worshiped under senior pastors Terry and Sylvia Jones are speaking out about what they describe as financial abuses at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville and its sister church in Cologne, Germany, founded by Terry Jones in 1981 and closed in 2008.
By all accounts - the church's Web site, interviews with current and former members and Terry Jones' own description - the church in Gainesville, as was the one in Germany, is structured with a for-profit business operating out of tax-exempt church property, using the unpaid labor of church members to maintain a steady stream of merchandise for sale online.
That structure has raised questions with the Alachua County Property Appraiser's Office, which has said it will investigate the church's tax-exempt status.