Quran-burning preacher Terry Jones regains spotlight

Terry Jones, the man who sparked an international furor in Afghanistan by burning a Muslim holy book and showing it on the Internet, was back in the pulpit Sunday.

On a day when three more people died in violent demonstrations, Jones approached the front of the Dove World Outreach Center, laid down his handgun and his Bible on a music stand, and said he did not feel responsible for the violence in the Muslim world triggered by the book burning.

Then, inside the locked sanctuary, Jones delivered a sermon that invoked the founding fathers, the first Christians, and Martin Luther King Jr. They were risk takers, Jones told the congregants, and so is he.

“When the civil rights movement first happened, many people died. Does that make [King] wrong?” Jones asked the parishioners. “NO!” came the answer from his flock, about 20 people, excluding reporters.

The three deaths on Sunday brought to 24 the toll from the violence unleashed when Muslims learned of the Quran burning 8,000 miles away in Gainesville.

Among the dead were several staff members at a United Nations post in Kandahar that was overrun by angry protesters who disarmed guards. Two were reportedly beheaded.

Jones first drew attention to himself last year when he threatened to burn a Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. Those threats landed the obscure preacher and his fringe flock in the international spotlight. Politicians, clergy members, even high-level members of the U.S. military pleaded with him to stop with the threats. In the end, he announced the Quran burning was off, to the relief of this college town, which prides itself on its tolerance and diversity.

Two weeks ago, with no advance notice, the burning was on again. The Quran was torched after a mock trial in which the book was found guilty of various transgressions.

Once more, Jones finds himself in the spotlight, talked about on CNN and Fox News, buzzed about on blogs and national news websites. He spent Saturday conducting various news interviews.

“Why do I do what I do?’’ he told the flock Sunday. “Because I’m more afraid of God than I am of you.”

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