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Facebook Withdraws, Restores Pastor’s Access over Quran Controversy

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) As a Florida pastor faced pressure to call off his plans to burn Qurans, Facebook revoked a Portland minister’s posting rights to his page opposing the burning.
By late Thursday (Sept. 9), the Quran burning was on hold and the Rev. Chuck Currie was back on Facebook.

Currie’s page, “People of Faith Opposed to the Burning of the Quran,” had had more than 12,000 visitors who “liked” it—Facebook’s terminology for becoming a fan of a cause—when he received an e-mail Thursday morning from the social networking giant saying he could no longer use the page.

He had created the page on Sunday and had been posting news articles and official statements from religious leaders.

“Burning the holy scriptures of another faith stands in opposition to my own understanding of Christianity,” he said. In his own message to Dove World Outreach Center, he asked them to “prayerfully reconsider” their actions.

Currie, ordained in the United Church of Christ, said he wanted to inspire Facebook users to send “respectful notes” to the Florida church.

He worried that without anyone to monitor reader responses, the Facebook page itself might add to the angry debate. Currie said he had deleted two reader posts, one that included an anti-Islamic statement and another trying to incite anger against Dove World Outreach Center, the Gainesville, Fla., congregation that had threatened to burn the Quran.

The Thursday e-mail from Facebook said Currie had violated the site’s Terms of Use.

The Facebook Pages Terms include a provision that the administrator of the page may disclose the types of content he or she will remove from a page and the grounds for which a user may be banned from accessing the page.

“I have not violated these terms in any manner,” Currie said in an interview. Facebook did not respond to e-mail from Currie or phone and e-mail inquiries from a reporter. Currie later said his rights had been restored without explanation.

Currie’s Facebook page had almost 16,000 “likes” by 7 p.m. Thursday. He said Christians, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus and Buddhists had all posted responses.

A Southern Baptist sent Currie an e-mail. “He said he didn’t agree with me or the United Church of Christ on a lot of issues, but this was an area where we could find common ground,” Currie said.

“This is not our common understanding of the divine. All of us believe, out of our own faith traditions, that this is not what the almighty calls us to be. Religious traditions are, at their core and center, traditions of peace, reconciliation and understanding. This congregation in Florida is engaged in theological malpractice.”