NYC Mayor Defends Florida Pastor Right to Burn Quran
Bloomberg was asked about Pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the terror attacks, amid a national debate about a planned Islamic center near ground zero. Jones is the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, a small, evangelical Christian church with an anti-Islam philosophy in Gainesville, Fla.
"In a strange way, I'm here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful. I don't think he would like it if somebody burned a book that in his religion he thinks is holy," the mayor said following a news conference about the progress of the reconstruction at the World Trade Center site.
He emphasized that Jones' planned act is protected by free speech rights. "We can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement."
In recent weeks, the mayor has been defending the rights of Muslims to build a house of worship about two blocks north of the site of the attacks led by Islamist extremists that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed nearly 2,800 people.
During a dinner on Aug. 24 in observance of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast during Ramadan, Bloomberg said opposing the construction of the proposed center, which would include a mosque, would be "compromising our commitment to fighting terror with freedom."
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department called on Americans to "stand up" and denounce the planned Quran burning as "un-American" and as an inappropriate commemoration of the 9/11 attacks.
Officials have said the provocative act could endanger U.S. troops, diplomats and travelers overseas.