“Terry Jones the man” does not actually believe that Muslims are “of the devil”, and yet “Terry Jones the Pastor” dismisses the murders tied to his dangerous rhetoric as part of the cost of free speech. Separating himself from the consequences of his actions is how Jones justifies what he’s doing. How do I know? He told me.

In the wake of the April 2011 slaying of twelve people in Afghanistan (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/asia/02afghanistan.html) – seven of them United Nations workers – Pastor Terry Jones spoke with me about why he felt that his demonstrations such as burning the Koran were “simply a method of exercising his freedom of speech”. It was an interview** that began largely with bluster and a regurgitation of his current talking points, but ended with an answer that strikes to the core of his motivation and his reasoning. In one moment of candor on the air, Jones let it slip that – in his mind – demonizing an entire faith is all just part of a day’s work.

The dissection of Jones’ answers helps to provide some insight into his way of thinking.

Jones started the interview defended his right to “peacefully demonstrate” and I asked him, based on the recent events in Afghanistan, if he expected violence at his next event, a planned demonstration in front of a mosque:

“The violence wouldn’t come from us, and it doesn’t matter what we expect…you can’t lock someone up for what they might do.”

His logic isn’t entirely sound. If someone announces that they are going to kill someone or if a bomb threat is called in, there are legal consequences. However, rather than focus on theory, I asked him about the fact that people had in fact been murdered directly in response to his actions of burning the Koran. Does the idea that he participated in something that resulted in lives being lost weigh on him at all?

“We cannot start to limit freedom of speech,” Jones said in response. He continued his rehearsed affront at the idea that he was detained for his latest efforts to defame a religious location.

Terry Jones’ book entitled, “Islam Is of the Devil” leaves little room for doubt on the message that he is propagating. His continuous disregard of the warnings – arguably also categorized as pleadings – by General Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff, to not further inflame things for fear of additional loss of life is an indication that he is willing to leave as much scorched earth as necessary in exchange for another fifteen minutes of media attention. 

According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewforum.org/The-Future-of-the-Global-Muslim-Population.aspx), the Muslim population makes up about 23.4% all of the people on the planet. Does Terry Jones actually believe that nearly one-fourth of the world’s population are terrorists hell-bent on the destruction of Christianity? Not even kind of.

“Well no, definitely not… We’re talking about two different, two different things there. We’re talking about Terry Jones the Pastor… to Terry Jones the Pastor, and to every Christian. They believe that Christianity and the Bible is the only true way. So every other religion is wrong, or of the devil.

“If we’re talking to Terry Jones the American, I respect the Constitution and their rights to exercise their religion. That is why the demonstration in Dearborn was not about their religion; it was not about the Koran; it was not about the mosque. It was simply about that radical element of Islam. So we are talking about there, two different, two different hats.”

There you have it. In his mind, his job as a Pastor is to grow his church and get more followers. He’s only REALLY targeting his definition of radicalism. If people die as collateral damage in the process then so be it. So what if he doesn’t fully believe that these people, fellow human beings, fellow world citizens, fellow moms and dads and brothers and sisters are actually evil terrorists in the making? That’s for the Muslim people to sort out and they can live with his consequences. 

To be clear, I in no way condone the violence that has taken place and ultimately the responsibility lies in the hands of those that committed the heinous acts. However, Terry Jones cannot be absolved from blame. He may not have “pulled the trigger”, so to speak, but he certainly loaded the gun and handed it to someone else without a thought as to how it might be used. His inflammatory hate speech is not a justification for violence, but time and time again he has been shown that his actions spark deadly reactions. Innocent lives are being lost and a guy who clings to a warped version of fame wraps himself in our constitution while playing a role in their slaughter.

When drafting the first amendment, I’m not sure that this total lack of accountability is what our fore fathers had in mind, but Americans will continue to judge whether or not Pastor Jones is taking that particular freedom too far. One thing is certain: if Christianity is where Jones is seeking his ultimate Judgment, he may want to rethink a strategy that includes turning a blind eye to bloodshed while hiding behind the Book that mentions the word “love” over five hundred times.

**Interview clip generously provided by www.NewsTalkFlorida.com and Genesis Communications. My colleague heard in the clip is Mike Reeves, currently a talk show host at WXJB in Tampa Bay.