Koran-burning pastor turned away by Canada

Oct. 12, 2012 at 3:30 AM
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DETROIT, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Florida pastor Terry Jones may take legal action, his brother-in-law said, after they were denied entry into Canada to attend a forum on an anti-Islamic video.

"I am very disappointed," Jones told the Toronto Sun from Dayton, Ohio, on his way back to Gainesville, Fla., with brother-in-law co-pastor Wayne Sapp, associate director of Stand Up America Now, after they were both turned away by the Canada Border Services Agency at the Detroit-Windsor, Ontario, border.

"This is a real blow to freedom of speech," said Jones, who gained international attention in 2010 for his plan to burn Korans, the Islamic scripture, on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Jones backed down at the time but burned the Muslim holy book at his tiny Dove World Outreach Center in March 2011 after putting the scripture on "trial."

Protesters in Afghanistan killed at least 30 people, including seven U.N. workers, in response. Jones has denied any responsibility for the violence.

Many died last month in riots spawned by the "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad that ignited bloody protests in the Muslim world and which Jones supports and promotes.

Jones, 60, told the Sun the reasons border officers gave Thursday for denying him entry were "very weak."

He and Sapp, 43, said the officers told them -- after detaining and searching them -- that they were denied entry because they had a 2011 arrest record from when they refused to take out a peace bond to protest in front of a Dearborn, Mich., mosque.

Sapp told the Detroit News the arrests were supposed to have been stricken from their record.

Jones said he was told he was also denied entry because he had a 2005 violation from a German court for using the "Dr." title as an evangelical Christian leader when a court concluded he had an honorary degree from an unaccredited school. Sapp said that complaint, which included a $3,800 fine, was successfully appealed.

The German Evangelical Alliance said it released Jones from church leadership in 2008 due to his indefensible theological statements and his craving for attention.

Border officials demanded proof that both the Dearborn and Germany issues were resolved, Jones and Sapp said.

"Because we don't have documentation of this, they refused us entry into the country," Sapp told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.

The men planned to consider legal options after they return to Florida, Sapp said.

Authorities seized two large placards that read, "Koran burning site" and "Islam is the new Nazism," The Toronto Star reported.

About 50 people showed up at the Freedom Showdown forum in front of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto Thursday evening. More than 20 Toronto police officers were on guard during the peaceful hourlong event, the Star said.

Event organizer Allan Einstoss told the Sun he thought barring Jones was "outrageous."

Imam Steve Rockwell of Toronto's Sheik Deedat mosque -- named for a South African Muslim missionary who held numerous interreligious public debates with evangelical Christians -- was to debate Jones at the event.

He told The Globe and Mail he'd wanted to hear from Jones "what he found in the Koran that was so reprehensible, so vile, that he had to burn it."

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