(RNS) The Florida pastor who abruptly called off plans to burn hundreds of Qurans could still face a $200,000 bill from law enforcement agencies that were called in to provide security at the protest.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., pulled the planned protest on Sept. 11 after pressure from top U.S. and world leaders, including President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office each expect to bill Jones’ church about $100,000 each, in addition to an expected bill from the City of Gainesville, according to The Gainesville Sun.
Police officials told The Sun that nearly all of their 286 officers worked security on Sept. 11—the same day as a massive University of Florida home football game—and sheriff’s officials said 160 of the 242 deputies working that day were assigned to the church.
Law enforcement officials said they communicated regularly with Jones before the event in order to ensure calm and safety, not to sanction Jones’ protest, which violated local fire ordinances.
Jones told ABC News that the $200,000 bill would “bankrupt” his church, and said he would have refused the security measures if had known he would be forced to pay for them.
“Obviously we don’t have that kind of money,” Jones told ABC. “We definitely would fight this.”
Jones is looking to move his flock to the Tampa area, telling ABC that Gainesville “has a very closed atmosphere.” Local clergy said Jones was welcome to stay, but they weren’t sad to see him go, either.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that I would not wish him on my worst enemy,” Saeed ur Rehman Khan, president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, told The Sun. “I wouldn’t wish him on anybody, including Tampa—there are good people there.”