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Armed Christian militia pulls support for 'Burn a Quran' event

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Church says it is surprised by the development
  • NEW: The event will proceed, says the church's pastor
  • Right Wing Extreme says it will not protect the church holding the event
  • The group says the event "does not glorify God"

(CNN) -- An armed Christian organization which had pledged to protect a Florida church as it holds "International Burn a Quran Day" withdrew its support from the event Wednesday, saying it "does not glorify God," according to a posting on its website.

Right Wing Extreme, which describes itself as a Christian conservative group, also said in the posting it is asking the Dove World Outreach Center, based in Gainesville, Florida, not to hold the event "for the reason that it may diminish the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to Muslims." The event is planned for the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

While the group agrees with the Dove Center's stance on Islam, press coverage of recent events, such as "Burn a Quran Day," a recent "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" group on Facebook and the controversy surrounding a proposed mosque and Islam community center near ground zero in New York is "really inciting a lot of hatred and a lot of violence that's going on," Right Wing Extreme founder Shannon Carson told CNN. "We don't want to be a part of inciting violence and racism anymore."

The group's website posting said it believes the "liberal media" is intentionally using such stories "to distract, divide and enrage the public."

Video: Preacher wants to burn Qurans

Carson said he had not yet spoken to Dove World Outreach Center Pastor Terry Jones, but plans to sometime Wednesday.

Contacted by CNN, the Dove Center said it was unaware of the development.

"Of course, we are very surprised, and of course disappointed," Jones said. "I talked to (Carson) personally and he was very excited about the stand that we had taken against Islam. He had already reviewed a lot of our information, YouTube (videos) -- he was 100 percent supportive in what we were doing."

Carson said since pledging its support and saying it would provide protection for the Dove Center, "we've all received several death threats" from the United States and beyond. The group has been in contact with the FBI, he said.

Carson said he believes other groups may follow Right Wing Extreme and withdraw their support from the event as well. He said he will ask the Dove Center not to hold the event, but does not know whether they will proceed. "We're not against them, we're just pulling our support," he said.

Jones pointed out that Right Wing Extreme had contacted the Dove Center to offer its help along with financial support, not vice versa.

"There was at that time absolutely no indication that they were not supportive," Jones said. "I can only come to the conclusion -- it seems very, very obvious -- they ... have bowed to fear or to pressure from other organizations, other groups." He said the group has taken the easy way out by saying "God would not do this."

But, Jones said, that's not the point of the event. "This is sending a clear warning to radical Islam that they are not welcome in America."

He said the church will proceed with the event.

Jones told CNN in an e-mail on Tuesday he had accepted the support of Right Wing Extreme, which he said offered to come to the church with between 500 and 2,000 men. Jones described the organization as an armed civilian militia group.

"There is a need for this protection," Jones wrote in an e-mail. "It is absolutely necessary in light of the death and terror threats we have received. We have met with the FBI who have warned us of the threats they have seen, not only against us but against other targets in Florida. We have personally received threats by phone and many by mail."

Right Wing Extreme said in its Web posting Wednesday, "Dove World Outreach are our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, we ask that they not hold this event for the reason that it may diminish the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to Muslims.

"America is a nation founded on the Bible," it said. "Capitalism, our form of government, our laws and our freedoms come directly from the Bible. Sharia law, however is based not on freedom, but totalitarianism." The system oppresses women and freedom of speech, along with "basic rights that Americans have fought and died for," the group said.

But, Carson noted Wednesday, "We need to calm down here ... the whole violence thing, this is going to get real ugly real quick if this keeps stewing."

On Tuesday, Carson said in a statement sent to CNN by the Dove Center that "We fully support Dove World Outreach Center and its efforts to put an end to the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion. Islam is a violent cult with the goal of world domination."

He repeated that on Wednesday. "It's not that we don't agree with Dove's stance on Islam, because we believe it's not a religion, but a cult. We do have freedom of religion but when it is a violent religion, or cult, as Islam is, that is invading our nation, we don't support that," he said. Carson said he has spoken with Jones and his staff on the issue previously.

Carson said Right Wing Extreme is opposed to the plan to build the mosque and Islamic community center near the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, saying it's "spitting in the face" of the 9/11 families.

Jones said freedom of religion in American means "Muslims are more than free to worship here, which is not the case in sharia law-dominated countries. They only have to respect and obey the Constitution" and not force sharia law on others, he said.

"This is just a typical giving in to pressure and fear," he said of Right Wing Extreme's withdrawal.

Muslims and many other Christians, including some evangelicals, are fighting the church's plan to burn the Quran. Religious leaders in Gainesville have planned an event billed as a "Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope" on September 10 as a response to the church's proposal.

The Islamic advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on Muslims and others to host "Share the Quran" dinners to educate the public. In a statement, the group has said it will give out 100,000 copies of the Quran to local, state and national leaders.