The Gainesville Sun reported Wednesday evening that the Alachua County Sherrif’s Office has submitted a bill for $65,540 to Dove World Outreach Center for expenses incurred in the lead-up to the planned, but eventually cancelled, International Burn a Koran Day organized by Pastor Terry Jones. In addition, the article states that the City of Gainesville still is adding up its costs relating to the event, which have reached just under $75,000 with some items still not included in the total. Earlier in the week, BBC reported that Jones’ invitation to speak at a rally for the right-wing group English Defence League in Luton had been withdrawn by the group.
The Sun quotes Sheriff Sadie Darnell from her letter to Jones which accompanied the bill:
“As a result, hundreds of hours of personnel time was spent in the month and weeks leading up to September 11th, including numerous law enforcement agencies who worked to coordinate the safety of not only the potential demonstrators but the safety of you and your church members,” Darnell wrote. “While you exercised your Constitutional Rights, public safety had to go to extreme measures to ensure the safety of the remaining citizens of our county.”
However, as pointed by the ACLU and others (including Sheriff Darnell in the letter), as disgusting as the planned Quran burning was, it would be classed as free speech protected under the First Amendment. Jones and Dove World are taking the position that the free speech aspect of the event exempts them from having to pay the bill. Returning to the article in the Sun:
Jones said in a written statement to The Sun Wednesday evening that the church has no intention of paying. Jones said he had met with police regarding security and was initially told by the Gainesville Police Department that it would not be able to provide much security. Jones said security was offered at a later meeting.
Sheriff Darnell clearly knew that she could not force the church to pay the bill, since her letter also states:
If you decide that payment is the right thing to do, please make the check payable to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
After first inviting Terry Jones to its rally in order to “speak out against the evils of Islam”, the English Defence League appeared to decide that although they stand for anti-Islam bigotry, they could not abide with Jones’ homophobia and racism. From the BBC:
Terry Jones, who threatened to burn copies of the Koran earlier this year, was invited to speak at an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Luton.
The home secretary was considering banning Mr Jones from entering the UK.
But a spokesman for the EDL confirmed the invitation to Mr Jones had been withdrawn because of his critical views on homosexuality and race.
It would appear that the media circus Jones spawned with his planned stunt has cost him dearly. He will be looking at very large bills for the event, even though it is unlikely he can be forced to pay them. The attention also has highlighted the fact that he is racist and homophobic. Further, the increased attention led to exposure of questionable real estate transactions he has carried out and the partial loss of tax exempt status for church property.