Place of Residence:
Arrested in 2013 in Florida, on his way to burn 2,998 copies of the Qur’an
Urged people to set fire to copies of the Qur’an on Facebook; created the “Braveheart Show” YouTube series to preach anti-Islam sermons; has a Twitter page
Growing up in the American city of Cape Girardeau in Missouri, little is known about his early years. He reportedly graduated from Cape Girardeau’s Central High School in 1969, and later received an honorary degree from an unaccredited California theology school, which tried to distance itself from him during the global controversy. He has earned no academic or theology degree.
Before he gained infamy as an anti-Islam right-wing activist at the center of an international conflagration, Jones was working in his hometown as a hotel manager until the late 1970s, before becoming an assistant pastor with Maranatha Campus Ministries.
With his first wife Lisa, to whom he was married for 25 years before her death in 1996, Jones worked as a missionary in Europe for 30 years, during which he founded and led the Christliche Gemeinde Koln (CGK), initially as a branch of the Maranatha Campus Ministries and a sister church to the Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida.
German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that church members compared his methods as a preacher to those of a cult leader, using psychological pressure on members and “subordinating all activities to his will.”
After his church in Germany asked him to leave, he showed up in Florida, taking over as head of the Dove World Outreach Center, a tiny Christian congregation in Gainesville, where he was often spotted on the church compound with a pistol strapped to his hip. He also launched an online video series called the “Braveheart Show,” which he used to preach anti-Islam sermons.
Until Jones began putting up billboards emblazoned with “ISLAM IS OF THE DEVIL,” a local resident said: “Nobody really thought much about him.” However, Pegeen Hanrahan, a two-term mayor in the town, described Jones as a “really fringy character.”
His estranged daughter Emma told German publication Spiegel Online that she did not witness her father’s radicalism during her childhood, and that while she was raised in a “very Christian” and “very strict” household, the family received visits from people from all over the world and “were open to everything.” She suggested that it was his time in Cologne when Jones began to display anti-Islam hatred.
“For years he led a church in Cologne that was, at first, merely Bible-oriented, but later it began to have sect-like elements,” she said. “Just before he left Cologne in 2008 and returned to the US, he began saying that Islam is getting the upper hand and that we can’t allow it.” Jones himself said during his 30-year spell in Europe, he saw the “growth of Islam there” and spoke about Islamic domination and Muslims “trying to push their agenda.”
Emma said his second marriage, to Sylvia, accelerated his extremist beliefs. “I realized that my father preached things and did things that I didn’t find to be in accordance with the Bible at all,” she added. “He demanded that people completely obey him and his second wife, Sylvia. Both are extremely obsessed with power. I saw genuine religious delusion. A typical indication of a sect. Both of them wanted to control everything.”
In 2010, Jones published his book “Islam is of the Devil,” in which he described Islam as a false religion that will lead people to hell. That same year, he brought the glare of the world’s media to the Dove World Outreach Center when he announced on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube his plan to burn a pile of Qur’ans on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The so-called International Burn a Koran Day sparked death threats and global protests, earning Jones a spot on an Al-Qaeda hit list. After considerable international pressure, the bonfire was cancelled.
But by March 20 the following year, he followed through on his promise. Broadcasting live on a Coptic satellite channel, Jones, dressed in a judicial robe, put the Qur’an on a mock trial and eventually convicted it on multiple charges. The penalty was decided as incineration of the Qur’an as “punishment” for “crimes against humanity.”
The act incited a mob to kill UN staffers in Afghanistan, but Jones remained defiant in TV broadcasts that his actions were not to blame. He went on to hold several more Qur’an burnings, including in April 2012 in protest at the jailing of an Iranian-American pastor in Iran, and in 2014 when he led a protest in which hundreds of Qur’ans were burned. He was arrested before he could set fire to a stack of 2,998 Qur’ans in 2013.
Jones has also been behind several anti-Muslim protests and rallies, and infamously burned an effigy of former US President Barack Obama. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have both placed Jones on their watch lists of hate groups. Little has been heard of him in recent years. In 2012, he announced that he was running for US president as an independent candidate, which proved unsuccessful.
In March 2013, Florida media reported that Jones planned to leave Gainesville and move to Tampa, Florida. In Tampa, he opened a Fry Guys Gourmet Fries stand at a mall in Bradenton and founded TS and Co., a furniture-moving business, with his second wife.
He was later discovered to be a driver for ride-sharing service Uber, but was soon investigated and dismissed. In 2017, Jones admitted that he had been sharing his anti-Muslim message with passengers and carrying a 9mm gun for self-defense, in violation of Uber’s firearms prohibition policy.
An insight into his mindset can be found on various social media platforms. On his Twitter page, his bio reads: “Fighting to defend our Constitution and save America from Islamic domination.”
As the founder of the political organization Stand Up America Now, Jones used the platform to spread his anti-Muslim rhetoric, saying: “Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion.” His last Twitter post under the account @DrTerryDJones was in 2015.
In his last-known interviews, in 2017, Jones appeared unlikely to waver from efforts to, as he once described it, “put the Qur’an in its place — the fire,” saying: “We will continue to hold events that may seem radical to some in order to wake America out of its stupor.”
On the Qur’an
“We believe that one, the Qur’an and the teachings of the Qur’an are responsible for millions and millions of deaths throughout the 1,400-year history of Islam.”
“Eternal fire is the only destination the Qur’an can lead people to, so we want to put the Qur’an in its place — the fire.”
“I am giving a prophetic warning and saying, ‘Watch out! Be careful. There is a part of the Qur’an that is very dangerous. There is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and oppressive. Do not be fooled by all of the peace talks, because behind the peace talks we do not see the fruits.”
“We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell. It is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion.”
“The Islamic crusade started 1,400 years ago with (the Prophet) Mohammed when, on his deathbed, he gave the command to cleanse the Arabian Peninsula of all unbelievers. And that is exactly what Islam has been doing the whole 1,400 years.”
“We will defeat the evil that is called Islam.”
“We will speak out against the fascist, totalitarian system of Shariah and Islam. We will not retreat. We will not back down.”
“Islam is the greatest violator of human rights in history.”
“In Islam, many actions that we consider to be crimes are encouraged, condoned or sheltered under Islamic teaching and practice … Another reason to burn a Qur’an.”
On other religions
“Ask yourself, have you ever really seen a really happy Muslim? As they’re on the way to Makkah? As they gather together in the mosque on the floor? Does it look like a real religion of joy? No, to me it looks like a religion of the devil.”
“I love Muslims as far as I would like to see them get converted to Christianity, which I believe is the true way.”
“I think there are good Muslims and bad Muslims, but I don’t think there’s any good Islam.”
“God has given the body of Christ everything it needs to become an apostolic, overcoming church in America and around the world. But instead of mobilizing for the battle for truth, many Christians today are bowing to society. Mired in political correctness, the church remains ignorant about one of Satan’s most successful and most accepted attempts to counteract the truth of the gospel: Islam.”
“We in Christianity believe that Jesus Christ and the Bible are the only way. We believe that any other religion that leads people in a different direction is, of course, a false religion. So the burning of the textbook of a false religion, I would not consider that to be in any way immoral, incorrect.”
On the US
“We will continue to sound the alarm that the United States of America should wake up to the real threat of Islam.”
“I am more concerned about the condition of America than I am about being No. 2 on Al-Qaeda’s hit list.”
“We will continue to hold events that may seem radical to some in order to wake America out of its stupor.”
“There’s a need to be (controversial) at times in order to shake us out of our apathy and perhaps bring attention to an issue that people then begin to examine … To a certain degree, it does appear that the American people are somewhat numb sometimes to normal rhetoric.”
“Our events that seem radical to some are very necessary to wake up America. Enough is enough.”
On former US President Barack Obama
“Islam does these things because they have a defender and a protector in Hussein Obama.”
“It is a good thing to burn effigies of President Hussein Obama.”
“Obama is a weak, compromising president. We see that in the fruits of his presidency.”