The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Florida Church Triggers Protests With Anti-Islam Message

By Sonia Scherr on February 12, 2010 - 12:55 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based group that pickets the funerals of fallen service members with “God Hates Fags” signs, is notorious nationwide for preaching a gospel of hate. But another small church is using similar tactics to attack Muslims, causing an uproar in the university town of Gainesville, Fla.

The ironically named Dove World Outreach Center erected a large roadside sign last July emblazoned with the words, “Islam is of the Devil.” That sign — later replaced by three smaller signs with the same slogan — triggered protests, dozens of phone calls to the church, numerous letters to the editor and national news coverage. The church stated on its website that it posted the sign “to expose Islam for what it is. It is a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to mascarade [sic] itself as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society.” In August, children whose parents are church members showed up at school wearing T-shirts that also proclaimed, in bright red letters, “Islam is of the Devil.” After the Alachua County School District banned the T-shirts, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the district, alleging that students’ free speech rights had been violated.

Despite the virulently anti-Islam rhetoric, a representative from the church was invited to give the invocation at the Sept. 8 meeting of the Alachua County commissioners, according to the Gainesville Sun. Church member Wayne Sapp, one of the parents who became a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the school district, stated in part: “As we remember 9/11, we encourage all religions, all people — especially the Muslims — to speak out against oppression and violent behavior…”

The Muslim-bashing was far more overt on Sept. 11, when the church held a march against Islam in the parking lot of a Gainesville mall. About 30 people participated, wearing “Islam is of the Devil” T-shirts and carrying signs such as “Islam Kills,” according to the Gainesville Sun. (For $20, people can buy the T-shirts on the church’s website.)

It didn’t end there: In October, the church constructed what it called a “fake lynching” scene, complete with life-sized mannequins, that featured a dark, bearded Muslim executioner and a Christian — wearing a white shirt adorned with a cross — who hung from a wooden plank. “[I]t is a very shocking, disturbing sight when you drive near the church property,” wrote church member Amy Ingram on the church’s blog. But she insisted that was as it should be. “Islam is growing in the whole world. Thousands of Americans are converting every year and we as Christians just want to pretend everything is okay.”

The church has also angered the gay community by staging an “anti-gay pride parade” at the Gainesville Pride Parade and Festival last fall, according to the Independent Florida Alligator. Participants held signs with messages such as “Homos lead to Hell” — a sentiment repeated on a sign near the church last month. Two gay rights groups took part in a Jan. 10 protest against the church, according to the Gainesville Sun. Shortly after that protest, the church tried to exploit the recent tragedy in Haiti, posting a sign reading, “Haiti Turn to God!” A post on the church’s blog suggested that the Jan. 12 earthquake might have occurred because the country made a pact with the devil.

Bigotry isn’t the church’s only problem. Former church members have criticized Dove World Outreach Center for its financial practices, including running a for-profit furniture business from the tax-exempt church property, the Gainesville Sun reported. The church was founded 24 years ago in Gainesville, according to its website. After its founder, Don Northrup, died in 1996, the church’s current pastor, Terry Jones, took over. The church’s property in northwest Gainesville — for sale since last summer for $3.9 million — includes a religious academy and the Lisa Jones House, which provides essential goods to people living in poverty.

  • Linda E. Walsh

    It is odd that this small guy can possibly pose a threat to many lives, both US GIs and Muslims, in a very dangerous time when the Mideast or SW Asia might be in the process of destabilization under the guise of religious freedom. He just hides behind it to spread his doctrine of self righteous hate, and sadly while as it appears perhaps abusing his church’s institutional status of a non profit to make a profit. He has converted love into hate in the name of religion as many have done before him. This just is tragic!

    Viscosity

  • Jon

    MY COMMENT IS awaiting moderation? SHAME ON YOU! TRAITORS! The Muslins hate everybody, were infidels to them, why do we have to put up with thier crap? Go visit any Muslin country and see, feel realo hatred. WAKE UP!!!

  • Jon

    Wow, are all of you anti Americans? this website should be shut down!! Traitors, terrorist lovers, cowards, go back to were you came from, sons of B…. Leave our country we don’t try to impose our belives in your countries! Leave us alone, GO HOME!!!

  • Ed P

    I am from NY, I watched the towers being built as a young boy in the 1960′s. I also watched them fall. People need to butt out of our affairs. Let me tell America something, stop using our city and the tragic events of 9/11 for your own agenda. Shortly thereafter I would have to deal with that trauma;
    It is pathetic and it is offensive that people who would just as well call NYC a place filled with homosexuals and sin would turn around and use our city to justify their hate.
    Really folks it’s over and, the memorials are being built, and they will remember all those who were lost that day.
    There was some problems between the Port Authority and Silverstein over what to do with Tower’s 2 and 3.
    Tower 2 will have its footing and foundation built to ground level and Tower 3 will be built to the 4th floor and for now be a shopping center. Tower 4 is built up about 10 stories and Tower 7 was completed several years ago and then their is Tower 1.
    Nope, we are not going to call it The Freedom Tower. New Yorker’s agreed it would just be called “WTC 1 or Tower 1″.
    Its footing, foundation and the steel has been erected for about 30 stories and should be completed in two years.
    For all who died, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Gays, Fathers, Sons, Mothers and Daughters those who would hate the people who died have no business claiming the moral high ground.
    I am so sick of this

  • angel

    I love how this tax free church who have their church up for sale for $3.9 million , is still asking us for donations on thier site.

  • ANONYMOUSE

    “Jessi said,
    Open your eyes people!! Repent of your sins and come to Jesus… Stop being so humanistic – other wise you will be in hell with the rest of the Muslims that don’t believe in Jesus!!!”

    WELL LET ME TELL YOU, YOU ARE AN IGNORANT ILLITERATE IDIOT WHO SAID ISLAM DON’T BELIEVE IN JESUS HE IS 1 OF THE PROPHET IN THE MUSLIM RELIGION…GET EDUCATED AND GROW UP..THE MUSLIM RELIGION ACCEPT ALL RELIGION I SUGGEST U DO THE SAME

  • MrsCaptJack

    Thanks Ruslan for the quotes and the details regarding them. None of the Muslims that I am friends with are anti-Christian. Not one of them states that Islam is the only road to salvation, yet every die-hard Christian I meet tells me that their way is the only way for me to meet my Maker. How arrogant are these so-called Christians that they would tell me this without even knowing what I believe.

    I have studied several religions to some degree. None of them can be iron-clad because they are all open to interpretation. The original authors are not here to state what God told them to write.

    And Jack, there are tons of verses in the Bible that extole the killing of one’s enemies. It’s not just the Koran the mentions it. Every Christian bible that I’ve ever picked up has mention of it.

    Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christian’s so much.” I tend to agree with him.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Jack, even my posts have not made it past moderation, so don’t pull the persecution routine. Your claims are false, period.

    And Jessi, I’m terribly sorry but Jesus, assuming he existed, did not rise from the dead, and there is no hell or heaven.

  • Aron

    Jessi here is a member of Dove. She posts on a whole bunch local newspaper fora.

    She deserves about as much attention as a speck of dust on the ground.

  • Jessi

    The point is: Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
    He died on the cross and he is raised from the dead. THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO BE SAVED- AND THAT IS JESUS CHRIST!!!!! Any other thing or religion that tries to offer salvation other than through Jesus Christ is of the devil.
    Open your eyes people!! Repent of your sins and come to Jesus… Stop being so humanistic – other wise you will be in hell with the rest of the Muslims that don’t believe in Jesus!!!

  • Jack

    Typical, the SPLC deleted my response post when it contained no vulgarity or other reason to toss it.

    Well, I am not rewriting it.

  • Sam Molloy

    The devil is very real and he’s got a hold on these people’s minds.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    That’s hilarious man. First of all, time IS of particular relevance to that verse, so if you’re going around trying to “prove” that the Koran teaches violence based on that sura, trust me, you don’t want someone looking up the historical context.

    No wonder you didn’t include the sura and ayat(it’s Al Baqara 191). Let’s have a look at the context, shall we?

    “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.” [Al-Qur’an 2:190-191]”

    “But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.” [Al-Qur’an 2:192-193]”

    UH OH! Look what happened when we put it in context. See the repeated references to “oppression”? This refers to the oppression and persecution of the Muslims by the pagan Quraysh of Mecca. Prior to this revelation, any kind of killing was forbidden. This is why the Muslims left Mecca instead of fighting. What these revelations reveal is the Muslim cause for a just war- it is clearly defensive.

    If Islam truly commands its followers to jihad, and Bin Laden’s Salafism(which is not recognized as legitimate by any Islamic school of jurisprudence) is in fact the norm, we might ask why the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide are not engaged in a violent jihad, actively or passively.

    Now as for the idiotic “moon cult” claim, the crescent was not associated with Islam at all until some time after the conquest of Persia, where the crescent was used on some coinage. However, it did not become the symbol of Islam until later, when the Turks converted and later became rulers of the Islamic world. The crescent is a sacred Turkic symbol,

    There is nothing in the Koran or the Hadith suggesting that one should worship the moon, or anything which could be construed as such. There IS however, a verse forbidding such things:

    “Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. DO NOT prostrate to the sun and the moon, but prostrate to Allah, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve.”

    If you had really studied Islam, you would know that numerous verses forbid associating ANYTHING, much less the moon, with Allah.

    FAIL.

  • Jack

    “And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.”

    Ali’s translation referring to Kafir’s (anyone who isn’t Muslim.)

    BTW, Ali’s translation, like most Korans, does not follow a time line and is arranged by chapter size. It is easy to use traditional translations to confuse and hide the truth.
    Muhammed was far more conciliatory to other faiths at the beginning when he was trying to coopt them under his rule.

    His true evil intentions come out later in the timeline.

    Most Westerners do not realize this feature of the Koran and are easily misled.

    Islam is nothing but a moon cult used by Mohammed to create a hybrid political/religious leader. Where do you think the crescent comes from?

    I suggest you get yourself a translation that is arranged by time, not chapter size.
    You are, like most, misled.

  • Allen

    Once again, I am (more and more as of late) attributing this hatefulness to the psychological phenomenon of projection;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.....projection

    Most of the fundie Christians I have encountered in my life like to point the finger at other religions in the hopes of directing people’s attention away from the injustice and violence perpetrated in the name of their own faith.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    What translation of the Koran have you read Jack? I happen to have a Yusuf Ali translation right here so I’ll be happy to discuss the Koran with you.

  • Roger

    The tee shirt decision was a good one. They will only create discussion among the students. My son had his tee shirt removed by a high school in Prescott Valley, Arizona. His was a rather nasty verse from the Bible quoted in context. Since his mother and I live in different states and my health was bad I was unable to come to his aid. It would have been a very fun fight and the school would have lost. They have a very bad habit of allowing christian and especially Mormon activities on campus.

    I say let them have their “free speech” since when it is so outlandish it only makes them look like the nut jobs they are. It also helps to make clear the rights of others.

  • Jack

    “Its very true that Al Qaeda is perverting Islam to support its political goals.”

    No they are not. They are doing EXACTLY what is called for in the Koran.

    You obviously have never read one.

  • Barb

    Its very true that Al Qaeda is perverting Islam to support its political goals. The vast majority of Muslims are perfectly peaceful people. What bothers me is why those peaceful muslims don’t stand up for Islam and destroy Al Qaeda?

  • Panchita

    I really appreciate the SPLC running this blog. I live near the “church” and was crushed to see such hatred right in my neighborhood. I couldn’t imagine the sadness and fear that this would cause for our Muslim neighbors. That’s why regardless of the fact that it’s on the church’s property people were compelled to speak out. I love the bullying point about the t-shirts. That’s exactly what it is. My husband had our son at a local park to play and some female church members showed up wearing “the t-shirts”. There were also 2 women there in hijab (spelling?) with their children. They were bullied and left. That should not be allowed to happen in any school. Many of hope that they sell soon, but that just means that they might end up in YOUR neighborhood! So the problem is not solved until people understand that in our society this sort of behavior is unacceptable- we have a long way to go!

  • Aron

    I am a student here at UF, and I can tell you, the town is becoming very, very, fed up with Dove World. While I certainly support their right to broadcast their ridiculous sentiments, I avoid their proselytizers every chance I get.

    On the UF campus, this most often takes the form of two women, presumably in their mid-to-late-twenties, walking around spreading their message of hatred. What’s even worse about this is the fact that these two women are pushing strollers carrying their infants!

    I believe that these people can say whatever they so choose, but for the love of all that is right and decent, stay the hell away from my campus!

    On another note, I’m from Lexington, MA, where we host a nearly annual “visit” by the WBC, and I can honestly say that if this is the “real” Florida, the kooks can keep it. As soon as I graduate at the end of the summer, I’m hightailing it back up north to where we have at least a slightly higher reign of sanity.

    Florida isn’t called the “F-State” for nothing.

  • Frank

    Gee, I guess Christianity never killed anyone…like the “Christians” who beat a gay teen to death, and who ever expected the Spanish Inquisition?

  • Snorlax

    Here in Colorado, this would be regarded as a violation of the school’s anti-bullying policy.

    Bullying caused Columbine.

  • Solkhar

    I am heartened by the comments here as much as I am saddened by that particular church’s actions.

    As a western-born Muslim and convert (some 30 years ago) and who now has settled in North West Africa I watch the ugly hands of radicalism often enough. The actions and events are, if anything, exactly the same as the forms of radicalism that often infects my Muslim world, and hyocritically they cite as evidence.

    I do find one element important – much of the radical, mind-boggling and inexcusable ugliness that often is seen by radical Muslims is a creation of poverty, illiteracy and blatant corruption. What is the excuse of those from middle-America?

    Ironically, the Muslim world is growing – albiet at a snail’s pace and confronting the radicalism within it and often the worst vocal intolerants amongst its radicals are now based in the west. Now add those fringe radicals like this one and others that are also in the west makes me wonder seriously if radicalism is in fact on the rise in the west and perhaps on the decline over here.

    Of topic – bravo to a very good website.

    Solkhar
    Marrakech

  • Payton

    What a great way to represent the religion you believe in.

  • Jack

    So they put up signs on their own property?

    Who cares? It’s their property.

  • http://brokenswordpublications.com SJR

    Good ole Gainesville, Fla, USA – home to the Gators, Timmy Tebow, cops in the KKK and now this ridiculous and hateful church. What’s next? Will spaceships descend upon the college town? Gah – no one is taking into account that these weirdos are actually claiming that the “devil” is a real and tangible thing – the hatred is an afterthought. WElcome to Florida…Disney is that-a-way…

  • http://www.realcourage.org Jeffrey Imm

    Thanks for your report!

    Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) shares this rejection of Islamophobic hate by the Dove World Outreach center that we have also previously written about. We urge all to Choose Love, Not Hate.

  • Wanderer

    This really sickens me. They shouldn’t push their religion onto other people by saying ‘It’s the work of the Devil’. They might as well top it off with a good Ol’ fashioned witch hunt. *insert eye roll*

  • http://www.ulive4.com/news.php OSINT

    BTW, I threw you a link on my Web site:

    http://www.ulive4.com/news.php

    With your link, I listed the link to Dove World’s Sign…so that my visitors could see it first hand.

    Thanks again!

    • Heidi Beirich

      Thanks!

  • http://www.ulive4.com/news.php OSINT

    Hi Sonia,

    Thank you for the story. While I certainly don’t condone such things, I do appreciate someone’s honest feelings over lies and misinformation. Here’s a headline which I found more shocking than that of ‘The Sign’:

    Distortion of the truth remains unpunished

    Article: In 2004, Florida appeals court ruled that the station, like any news agency, was under no legal obligation to tell the truth

    Found here:

    http://www.ulive4.com/news.php

    or

    http://media.www.ricethresher......0369.shtml

  • Snorlax

    The court should allow those t-shirts only if they allow shirts disparaging the Christian religion as well.

    Is that what we really want in our public schools?

    I think the principal was right, those shirts are disruptive.

  • Mom of Three

    How can this church (or any church) tha promotes hatred even call themselves Christian and claim to espouse Christian values? Have they all forgotten that they are to “love thy neighbor”; there’s nothing about “choose thy neighbor and love only those whom you have thus chosen”. Furthermore how can the church even say that Muslims are evil and are murderers when Christianity was used as the basis to support slavery and later lynchings in the US and it is the remnants of that twisted mindset that is the root cause of the racist policies that continue in this country despite laws prohibiting such things. So-called Christian groups such as the Promisekeepers (and their counterparts within the African-American community such as the Maximize Manhood program) hold as their central belief the oppression and control of women something that they claim only Muslims do.

  • Snorlax

    These hateful people are NOT Christians.

    They do NOT know Him.

  • skinnyminny

    It would be funny if a Mosque was built adjacent to this church! LOL!

    No seriously, these people never quit! Yet, they wonder why a few atheists took them on and sued to ban prayers in school. Actually, I wouldn’t call them atheists, I would say that people can practice any religion they want.