Koran-Burning Church Has Cultish Tendencies, Protests With Westboro Baptist

September 9, 2010 6:36 a.m.

The Dove World Outreach Center, the church in Florida whose pastor is planning to burn a pile of Korans this Saturday, trains new ministers in its “Academy” program, which requires students to work in the church’s used furniture store unpaid and have no contact with their family.

A “rulebook” for the academy, as well as news reports and the church’s own web site, paint a picture of a church that teaches followers total obedience. It’s also a church that has expressed solidarity with the Westboro Baptist Church, with pastor Terry Jones and other members wearing “Islam is of the devil” T-shirts at a Westboro protest.Jones and several others joined Westboro at a Gainesville protest in April. The center’s members carried signs reading “Mohammad was a false prophet” and stood alongside Westboro’s notorious “God hates fags” signs.

On his Facebook page, Jones wrote, “People who did not know each other with nothing in common but the word of God marching in unity and putting the kingdom first, ahead of everything else! What can be more important than saving people from hell?”

Westboro, for whatever it’s worth, doesn’t feel the same way about Jones. Shirley Phelps Roper, a leader of the church, told the Kansas City Star this week that Koran-burning is old hat, something her church did “a long time before this guy.” Besides, she said, he won’t go through with it.

“They’ll browbeat him and he’ll back down at the last minute,” she said. “He’s an apologist. He doesn’t serve God.”

As for the “academy,” Dove World describes it thusly on its web site:

“We believe that God is calling a new generation in this end time — a generation of believers that are yielded to His Word and His will. Our land needs strong churches that understand and fulfill God’s vision of restoration and reformation. Churches which will be planted by the DWOC Academy graduates.”

The rulebook was originally posted online by the Gainesville Sun last year, when the church starting putting “Islam is of the devil” signs in its front yard. The church says the rulebook has been updated, but they haven’t released a new version. It was re-posted yesterday on The Smoking Gun.

You can read the whole thing here. Some selections:

The student is required to be obedient to all commands.

Students will be put on the scale once a week to follow the tendency. Each student received his weight goal, that must be reached, otherwise this category is failed.

Singles are not allowed to have romantic relationships to the opposite sex. In fact it is recommended that the time is spent completely for academy matters. Except work things, there is no need to talk at all, or even flirt!

During Academy you are not allowed to visit family members or friends, or receiving visits. This time is giving to God and the student is supposed to spend all his time to study, practice and grow on order to become a true and faithful Minister. Family occasions like wedding, funerals or Birthdays are no exception to this rule.

In order to obey God, we have to leave the family behind! Jesus said: those who are doing the will of God are my family.

Pastor Terry Jones runs a used-furniture business out of the church, buying old furniture from around the state, storing it in the church sanctuary and selling it on eBay. Academy students work full-time packaging the furniture; according to the rulebook, lunch breaks are for testing students on their homework.

The center’s tax-exempt status was partially revoked because of the apparently for-profit used furniture business.

The Sun last year spoke to Jones’ estranged daughter, who called the church a “cult,” and current members of the church who denied there was anything amiss.

“We believe what the Bible says and that the Bible tells us that God will put leaders in charge. … They are placed over us to make sure that we do the work of God,” one member said. “We’re taught by the Bible to be committed and faithful to one church.”

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