A controversial Florida church whose pastor is known for his intemperate attacks on Islam and gay people is facing a series of Internal Revenue Service liens that total more than $100,000.
Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville attracted worldwide media attention in fall of 2010 when its pastor, Terry Jones, announced that he would publicly burn a Quran. Jones was in the media again more recently when he was tied to the makers of an anti-Islamic film that sparked riots in Egypt and a fatal attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya.
Jones is known to Americans United for another reason: In March of 2010, Americans United asked the IRS to investigate Dove World Outreach after the church posted a sign on its property reading “No Homo Mayor.”
The reference was to Craig Lowe, who was then a mayoral candidate and who is gay. Contacted about the matter by The Gainesville Sun, Jones admitted that the church had erected the sign. (Lowe won the election and is now mayor of Gainesville.)
“We don’t feel as though the city should be represented by a homosexual,” said Jones at the time.
The stunt apparently brought the church under scrutiny. In August of 2010, officials in Alachua County announced that the congregation would have to start paying taxes on part of its 20-acre property because Jones and some church members had been using church facilities to run a furniture business, which is not a tax-exempt religious enterprise.
Earlier this year, the IRS placed three liens on the property, reported the Ocala Star-Banner. Officials with the tax agency noted that the church owed unpaid taxes for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 but declined to tell the newspaper what income source Jones had failed to pay taxes on. It’s most likely Jones’ furniture business, TS & Company.
The liens total $101,098. If Jones does not pay the taxes, the IRS could seize some of his church’s property to satisfy the debt. The Star-Banner reported that the church owns land worth $1.6 million.
The IRS did not provide additional information about any other investigations Jones may be facing, and Jones did not return calls from the Star-Banner.
Jones’ small church of about 50 members seems to thrive on publicity and is known for engaging in outrageous stunts. Children of church members have gone to school wearing t-shirts reading “Islam is of the Devil,” and earlier this year, the church erected a gallows on its property and hanged an effigy of President Barack Obama. It was accompanied by a large sign reading, “Obama Is Killing America.”
There were reports that the Secret Service investigated the matter.