Contrary to Mayor Bloomberg’s statement that the Gainesville evangelicals have a First Amendment right to burn Korans, it appears that Gainesville’s ordinance against book burning will prevent it. Although the Gainesville ordinance might, at first blush, appear to violate the First Amendment because it prohibits conduct that has long been recognized for its symbolic value, this may not be the case.
On its face and without knowing more, one could conclude that the no-book-burning ordinance was designed to quell any sort of civil unrest or controversy. If this was the purpose, it surely would violate the First Amendment.
It is my understanding, however, that the ordinance was enacted because the ink used in nearly all books contains dioxin that is released into the atmosphere when burned. Because the ordinance prohibits the burning of all books (i.e., is content neutral), is a law of general applicability (i.e., no strict scrutiny), and is rationally related to the city’s interest in preventing pollution, the ordinance should pass constitutional muster.
Ironically, this means that the Gainesville Fire Marshal will be the one who heeds the wishes of General Petraeus, all in the name of preventing pollution at home rather than danger for troops overseas.
In the meantime, I saw the Reverend Jones on television proudly proclaiming he has never read the Koran. Although the Koran does not make for compelling reading, I strongly suspect that the Jones does not read anything other than his bible. I know for certain that he does not read anything about the history of Christianity — that much is evident here.
Finally, what is it about the name Jones and weird spiritualist behaviors? As reported over at Spiegel, the Gainesville Jones apparently has some things in common with the Jonestown Jones. The Gainesville Jones had a ministry in Cologne, Germany that parallels in several intriguing respects the ministry of Jonestown Jones, and the two men seem to have some things in common. They should be taken seriously.