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Controversial Pastor Behind Koran Burning To Hold Rally At UC Irvine

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Florida pastor Terry Jones (Getty Images)

Florida pastor Terry Jones (Getty Images)

SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Florida pastor who ignited a national debate over free speech after presiding over a torching of the Koran is set to hold a rally at the UC Irvine campus on Thursday.

UPDATE 1:18 p.m.: Campus police canceled the event and evacuated an administration building after citing “suspicious activity” around the area where Jones was scheduled to speak.

Pastor Terry Jones, author of the book “Islam Is Of The Devil”, said he was denied permission to hold a rally near the campus flagpoles, where public events are sometimes held.

Cathy Lawhorn of UCI said Jones was welcome on campus but that the flagpole area had been reserved by a
student group.

“We’re not denying him access to the campus, just that particular area because it was already spoken for,” she said.

In September, 11 Muslim students were convicted of misdemeanors for disrupting a Feb. 8, 2010, speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on the UCI campus.

The flagpole area near Aldrich Hall on Pereira Drive is popular in part because amplified sound is available, Lawhon said.

“That might be what he’s upset about,” she said.

While Jones, the senior pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has publicly stated that passages in the Koran promote violence, university officials say they have no objection to Jones’ message.

“Content is not a criteria for allowing people to speak” on campus, Lawhon said.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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