That is, or WAS, a sign erected lawfully by Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach ministry, with the agreement of the property owner. Two plain-clothes Alachua County sheriff's deputies painted over Mr. Jones sign using green paint.
The sign advertised the "Burn the Quran Day" to be held at Jones' church.
The following paragraphs about that green sign from the Gainesville Sun should send chills down the spine of anyone concerned about First Amendment free speech issues in this country:
Wow. The Alachua County Sheriff's department went and put pressure on the land owner to allow them to send two plainclothes officers to paint over the sign.
"A Dove World Outreach Center sign on Southwest 13th Street announcing its International Burn a Quoran Day' was painted over Wednesday evening by Alachua County sheriff's deputies.
The sign was put up on a billboard on property adjacent to the Hoda Center Academy, a mosque and Islamic center, under an agreement between the property owner and church officials.
On Thursday morning, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard said the decision to paint over the sign came after a day of what he described as conversations between Heine and local officials. After receiving written permission from Heine, two deputies in plainclothes were sent to the sign with green paint that the Sheriff's Office had on hand, Maynard said, and at about 8 p.m. painted over the sign."
Like it or not, this man and his church members have a First Amendment right to burn the Qurans on his church property. I agree with Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City - he stated that while he found the burning of the Quran distasteful, he affirmed that Terry Jones has a right to his free speech and we should all seek to protect it.
Burning of books or other materials that one find's offensive, or that they don't like: that is a form of protected "speech", and it is well grounded in our Constitution rights as Americans.
And just because YOU, or I, or Obama, or Muslims here in America or in the Middle East don't like it: TOUGH POOP as my grandpappy used to say, and he didn't say "poop".
Have we Americans lost sight of the fact that the First Amendment free speech rights aren't needed to protect popular speech that the majority of Americans agrees with? The First Amendment was established by our founding fathers to protect speech that is offensive and unpopular! If this man is shut down by our government for his unpopular speech, who will be next? Maybe you, Christian pastor?
Jones can burn Qurans. He can burn Bibles. He can burn the Book of Mormon. He can even burn copies of our Constitution.
It doesn't matter if Obama doesn't like it. It doesn't matter if marching Muslims in Afganistan are burning effagies of the pastor. It doesn't matter if it is inconvenient to the sheriff of Alachua County. We live in America, and Jones has a right to free speech, and the government does not have the right to interfere with his speech based on its content.
Just a guess here: but I think this means the sheriff's office does not have a right to be painting over privately-owned signs with green paint that they find offensive.
And they aren't just painting over his signs. Jones also had his Internet Service Provider shut down his church's web site. Was the government involved in applying pressure to the ISP to get this accomplished? The Gainesville Sun is now reporting that the Sheriff of Alachua County is going to charge the pastor of Dove outreach church "tens of thousands" of dollars for security expenses due to his planned Quran burning. Burning a Quran requires NO increased security, unless it is the fire marshall or firemen.
Please hear me: The only thing that requires security would be policing those that disagree with the pastor. So why not issue a statement: "Anyone that tries to harm this man for exercising his free speech, you will be charged for the cost of our police protection."
Is not that the job of our government? Weren't the Sheriff of Alachua County and his deputies sworn to protect Mr. Jones' rights as an American citizen and of their county? Why is the Sheriff not telling people who might attempt to stop or harm Mr. Jones that the Sheriff will do everything in its power to protect his free speech?
So Christians everywhere should be just as outraged at the government response to the burning, as they are to the act of burning the Qurans. Utlimately this story will not be about Qurans, but about Pastor Jones' right to free speech.
You see Christian, if you don't stand up for this man's right to burn the Quran, YOU and your church might be next.
What, you want to have a Passion Play and show Jesus being beaten and hung on a cross? That is offensive. You will be charged for security AND your website shut down and your billboards painted over. That message might harm our troops around the world and is offensive to Jews and Muslims.
Have a blog that dares to blog about a pastor and his church and express your views about finances and call for a financial boycott? You might have a sheriff's deputy deeply involved in the church's ministry investigate your blog and hand your name to the church for them to kick you and your wife out...and then have the city defend their actions by saying the content of your blog constituted a "threat".
And you homosexuals want to have a gay pride parade? Nope, that is offensive to the majority of the people around the world so we will charge you for increased security and paint over your banners and billboards!
While I don't want this man to burn Qurans, and I find it to be a stupid and anti-Christian idea - the sad thing is that if the Sheriff's office succeds in intimidating him into silence, or if they physically stop him from exercising his free speech, we all will have lost a measure of our First Amendment rights. And if this happens, I hope the pastor fights back.
And Christian pastor, get ready, because you and your "offensive gospel" may be next.