(NNPA)—Bombastic talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Terry Jones, the Gainesville, Fla. pastor who gained worldwide attention by threatening to hold an “International Burn a Koran Day” on Sept. 11, graduated in 1969 from Central High School in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
I visited the school’s website to see if I could find any clues as to why this rural city in the Missouri boot heel was an incubator to such peddlers of hate. Many of their classmates appear embarrassed by Jones and, to a less extent, Limbaugh.
The banner headline on the website reads: “Koran-Burning Preacher Terry Jones and Rush Limbaugh: Class of 69.” The story says, “Rush Limbaugh USED to be Cape Girardeau’s most prominent export. One of his classmates from the Central High School Class of 1969 is dominating the news right now: Terry Jones, the Gainesville, Fla. preacher who is threatening to hold an “International Burn a Koran Day” on Sept. 11.
“In 2010, Jones published “Islam is of the Devil,” which denounces Islam as a violent faith.
“His church also maintains a Gainesville boarding school, called the Dove World Outreach Academy. The Gainesville Sun newspaper reported that students of the academy are prohibited from outside and family contact including attendance at family weddings and funerals, and work without compensation selling, packing and shipping furniture for TS and Co., a business owned by his current and second wife, Sylvia. (His first wife was Lisa Barker, of Marble Hill. She died of a heart attack in 1996.).”
Describing Jones as “an equal opportunity hater,” the story on the Web continued, “In March 2010, Dove World posted a sign saying ‘No Homo Mayor,’ referring to Gainesville’s first openly gay mayor; after Americans United requested that the Internal Revenue Service investigate the sign as an undue participation of a non-political tax-exempt organization in the political process, the church then changed the sign to simply read ‘No Homo.’
“On April 18, 2010, members of Dove World participated in a joint protest against homosexuality with the Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for disrupting the funerals of U.S. soldiers. On April 21, Dove World member Fran Ingram published a blog post proclaiming the church’s endorsements of the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests against homosexuality and homosexuals.”
The “equal opportunity hater” brought liberals and conservatives together, to condemn his plans. In the end, Jones cancelled his divisive act of defiance, but by then, the damage had been done, setting off riots in some predominantly Muslim countries.
How is Terry Jones playing in Cape Girardeau? A former classmate, Judy Temple, asked the Number One question on my mind: What WERE those two smokin’ back then?”
Someone identified as “Ismellarat,” said, “Rush has talked about Jones on his show and did not mention the connection…I think we should dig deeper into the relationship between these two. Rush stirs us up, makes fools of us, stands back as we come to blows, and then laughs all the way to the bank.”
Linda Strange wrote, “I lived in Cape until 1965 and attended Jefferson School from the second through the sixth grade. Terry Jones was in my class. All I can remember about him is that he had difficulty reading and was in remedial classes for it. Can’t recall his ever saying much of anything, but he was labeled ‘dumb’ by many of the kids. Maybe that’s what made him so full of hate.”
Jones had his supporters, though they were in the distinct minority.
Wayne Boswell wrote, “I had no idea that Terry Jones was from Cape, but I was really happy to find out he was. Since he has attracted national attention, maybe even worldwide attention with his threat to burn a Koran, I would like to encourage him to form a coalition of religious leaders from the United States or maybe even worldwide to petition the leaders of the Muslim Church to change their doctrines about ‘killing infidels’ and Sharia Law. If they will not agree to do this, then it will at least expose them for what they really are.”
Lori Robinson Smith, who described herself as slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, observed, “I don’t agree with Terry Jones in burning the Quran, only because it would do nothing but incite Muslims to violence. Is it within his right to do it? Yes, he has the First Amendment right to do it. Is it insensitive? Absolutely. I would not like it if someone burned the Bible. I wouldn’t riot and kill over it, but I would be insulted.”
Another classmate, Gregg Hopkins, said, “I knew him in the early ’70s. He graduated from Central (I think) in ’69. He was a funny, friendly guy back then, when he was dating my friend, Lisa. My, how the years change some people. Every picture I’ve seen of him, he’s wearing an intense scowl. A couple of our Marble Hill friends figured out his connection about the same time I did. Sickening, his former in-laws, Lisa’s parents, are fine folks. I feel embarrassed for them.”
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)