With Obama hanged in effigy, Dove World getting attention again
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 7:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 7:39 p.m.
The presence of members of Dove World Outreach Center loudly proselytizing in downtown Gainesville on Friday evenings has drawn watchful police as well as groups determined to counter them.
Dove World’s presence downtown also has drawn criticism from business owners, who are complaining that the group known for burning Qurans is ruining the ambiance.
Andrew Schaer of Hear Again CDs in Union Street Station said in an email that, among downtown businesses, the situation is a tricky one.
“We do nothing, they stay and continue to run people out of downtown because they love the attention. We retaliate, they get more aggressive,” Schaer said.
Meanwhile, Dove World also is getting attention for its latest display at its property at 5805 NW 37th St. It includes a lynched effigy of President Barack Obama, a baby doll with scissors in its head to symbolize abortion, an Uncle Sam and a rainbow flag to symbolize gays.
A series of signs reads “Obama is a killer” while the message “Obama killed America” is behind the effigy.
Dove World Pastor Terry Jones said Tuesday the display is intended to call attention to Obama’s performance as president, reflecting a belief that Obama has endangered the country and infringed on personal rights.
“It’s definitely a radical stunt, it’s definitely on the edge — the hanging of Uncle Sam, the hanging of Obama,” Jones said. “We feel that Americans have gotten so numb.”
Once again, neighbors of the church are having to deal with signs or scenes that they believe are offensive every time they go by.
Several said they are sick of the church’s ongoing displays and events — including the Quran burning in 2011 and signs reading “Islam is of the Devil.”
“We are just tired of it. It’s gotten to the point where he is irrelevant,” Danusia Goodman said. “It’s an insult to the president and the country. The name pastor doesn’t go with what he is doing.”
Dove World members who call themselves Warriors of Christ have been walking through downtown on Friday evenings to preach from a corner at the intersection of Southwest First Street and Second Avenue.
Pastor Luke Jones, the son of Terry Jones, said the 10 to 20 people who regularly participate choose to preach downtown because a lot of people are there on Friday nights. He downplayed complaints that some participants are aggressive — leaning over railings to loudly preach to people eating outdoors and using megaphones.
“We believe the message of Jesus Christ is needed in the areas where it’s not wanted,” he said. “Our goal is not to upset people or ruin business. As long as we are in Gainesville, we will preach anywhere.”
A group of people countering the Warriors of Christ have stood on another corner of the intersection, while police are sometimes on a third corner.
Others say the preaching is upsetting and it is costing businesses.
Ken McGurn, who with his wife, Linda, developed Union Street Station and the Sun Center, said the activities are preventing people from enjoying themselves downtown.
“We’ve had a number of complaints from customers who would like to sit outside at an outdoor cafe and enjoy the weather and the atmosphere that we’ve created here,” McGurn said.
In an email thread among the Gainesville Downtown Owners and Tenants, some are suggesting that street musicians set up on the corners to keep the Warriors of Christ from using them.
Gainesville police Lt. Brian Helmerson, who heads the downtown zone, said officers keep an eye on the scene to make sure peace is maintained.
Helmerson said he has spoken with Luke Jones about the Friday night preaching.
“They are pretty rough in the way they present themselves. They are sometimes abrasive,” Helmerson said. “We don’t want to violate their rights or anybody else’s rights. We have to be present to protect everybody’s rights so nobody violates anybody’s personal space and so that nobody gets offended and takes a swing at one of the people trying to pass the word of God.”