MANATEE — Rev. Terry Jones, who has announced plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11, has bought property in the Bradenton area and is moving his entire operation here, he said Friday.
The burning won’t be in Manatee County but in Mulberry, in Polk County, Jones told the Bradenton Herald.
Jones, now based in the Gainesville area, said he chose a property in the 17200 block of Waterline Road in East Manatee for his new location because he liked it and “because of the size and diversity of the population, it has a lot of good potential also for our message.”
Jones’ organizations include the Dove World Outreach Center, the Dove Charismatic Ministries Inc., and a political arm, Stand Up America Now.
On July 25, he bought the 11.69-acre property for $325,000, according to county records.
The seller was Agape Corner Boarding School of Florida & Ministries, records said.
Jones said his organizations and a congregation of about 12 were in the process of moving.
“Some have already moved,” he said. “I am coming back and forth; we still have facilities in Gainesville.”
Jones said he intends to use the property as his residence as well as for his ministry, adding, “The area is fantastic.” Jones caused an uproar in 2010 when he first announced plans to burn copies of the Koran.
He canceled those plans after senior American government officials and others worldwide protested. But he did set a Koran on fire in March 2011, which sparked riots in Afghanistan. He also burned a Koran in April 2012.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups, has designated Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center as a “hate group” and called Jones “a true fanatical extremist who seems to be drawn mostly by the need for self-promotion and publicity.”
On Sept. 11, Jones said he plans to burn 2,998 copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, representing the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said.
Asked if he was discouraged by a group in Mulburry opposed to the burnings, Jones replied, “Definitely not.”
He said he was “trying to raise awareness in the U.S. of the dangers of Islam.”
The previous residents of the property Jones purchased had moved quite a long time ago, Jones said.
The property includes a house and two other buildings. Jones said he does not plan to build on the property.
“We bought at auction,” he said. The property in Gainesville, he said, has been sold.
Hassan Shibly, the executive director for Tampa Bay’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Florida has already rejected Jones’ message.
“He’s a non-factor for us and if anything, his intolerance and bigotry he preaches will only serve to better unite the moderate Christians and Jews of all faiths in the community,” said Shibly.
“Burning a book is a pure sign of ignorance and censorship,” he said.
The Rev. Gary Batey, co-pastor of Roser Memorial Community Church in the city of Anna Maria, said that like everyone who supports and defends the U.S. Constitution, he believes in freedom of speech.
“I know the most difficult thing in a free society is to defend speech you feel is abhorrent,” he said. “And anything done in an attitude of malice, done toward a group, is to me something I wish were not being done, but I would certainly have to defend the right of a person to say that.”
Told of Jones’ moving plans, Rabbi Harold Caminker, of Bradenton’s Temple Beth El, was dismayed.
“It’s terribly disturbing news on the part of people of goodwill all across this country,” he said.
“Christians, Jews and Muslims — we’re Jews — our holy books and even some of our people have been burned,” he said. “It’s just frightening. It’s really a sad day for our community and for the city of Bradenton that a man who preaches hate, rather than love, and anger, rather than tolerance, is coming here.”