Friday, October 15, 2010

Should Terry Jones Be Billed?

A few weeks ago, ABC news announced that Terry Jones, the controversial Florida pastor who was going to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11 (he called off his plans after pressure from the government and beyond) is now going to be billed at least $200,000.  The ABC news article did not explain specifically why his city, Gainesville, is billing him, except that it's "for costs associated with the stunt".  This brings to question, should Pastor Jones be billed for threatening to burn Muslim "holy books"?

Without question, it would have been wrong for Jones to burn the books, for both security reasons and spiritual reasons.  First, had Jones burned the Korans, it would have been very dangerous for our nation, especially for our troops.  President Obama, for once, was right in one thing: the burning would have been a great recruitment aid for al Qaida members, and it would have endangered our troops overseas.  Even without Jones actually doing the burning, his promise to do so triggered riots throughout the world, which even caused the loss of lives!  Never, ever could something like that be worth someone's life. 

Second, on a spiritual note, what Jones wanted to do was wrong.  He is preaching a message of hatred against Muslims.  The Bible says to love our enemies.  Take these verses, for an example: 

1 Peter 2:15-16
"For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God."

Matthew 5:38-47
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those you love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?"

Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law." 

Ephesians 4:15
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

Ephesians 4: 31-32
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you."

Ephesians 6:12

1 Timothy 2:1-4
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."  ("All men" includes Muslims!)

So, you get the picture.  What Terry Jones wanted to do was wrong, for multiple reasons.  However... what did he do, LEGALLY, that was wrong?  The answer is... nothing.  It would not have been wise, it would not have been right, but it was LEGAL.  Jones had every right, legally, to burn a bunch of books on private property, regardless of what those books are.  He has the freedom of speech, and if he wants to make a hateful, anti-Muslim statement like that, he has just as much a right as someone who wants to make a loving, peaceful, pro-Muslim statement.  The message of your statement doesn't change how much you have the right to say it.  

What if Terry Jones had been burning Bibles?  Would there have been as much of an outrage?  Would he still have been billed, even if he really burned them?  Would anyone ever be billed for simply planning to burn Bibles and not actually doing it? 

I think it's pretty clear whether or not Jones should be billed.  What about you?