MULBERRY, Fla. — A Florida pastor set fire to more than 2,000 Bibles that he believed to be Qurans before authorities could extinguish the flames and arrest him.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Rev. Terry Jones and his associate pastor, Marvin Sapp Jr., set out to burn 2,998 Qurans, one for every victim of the 9/11 attacks. The two men were arrested Wednesday on felony charges as they drove a 1998 Chevrolet pickup truck “towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with Qurans soaked in kerosene.”
Sheriff’s officials said that the trailer caught fire as the truck was being towed. After the fire department extinguished the flames, a closer examination revealed that the books, which were stacked inside highly flammable cardboard boxes, were actually Bibles.
“We don’t condone the burning of any religion’s holy book,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, “but we were absolutely sickened to discover that Pastor Jones reduced a couple thousand Christian Bibles to ashes.”
While Jones was not available for comment, Frann Ingram, a spokeswoman for his Dove World Outreach Center, said that Jones ordered copies of the Muslim holy book wholesale from Amazon. “They were supposed to arrive on the 10th, but they were a day late. We were in a hurry, and we didn’t check inside the boxes.”
“I’ve been praying for God’s forgiveness non-stop since this happened,” said Ingram. “I still feel like the Muslims are partially to blame for this. If we didn’t have to protest them, this wouldn’t have happened. They tricked us!”
While there is no law against burning Bibles or Qurans, Jones and Sapp were charged with unlawful conveyance of fuel and several traffic violations.
Opponents of Jones’s evangelical church hope that his arrest will prevent future anti-Muslim protests. His congregation burned the Quran in March 2011, and last year he promoted an anti-Muslim film. Both incidents sparked violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The remaining Bibles are being held as evidence until the case is resolved, and authorities say that six boxes of Bibles remain completely unscathed. “I think those six boxes are miracles,” said Sheriff Judd. “Proof that He will protect His word to the best of His ability.”