The latest in the Islamic center controversy has the media focusing on a small church in Gainesville, Florida. Here, Terry Jones, the outspoken anti-Islam pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, has the spotlight. Just this week, he cancelled a planned 9/11 Koran burning protest and is now visiting New York City.
This pastor and his 50 parishioners have the world’s attention, but how representative are they?
Beyond ideologies, Social Explorer can provide helpful numbers and context. The Religious Congregations and Membership Survey, conducted by the Association of Religious Data Archives, tracks the number of religious adherents and congregations, as well as dozens of denominations.
In 2000, Alachua County, Florida (where the Dove World Outreach Center is located) had 217,955 residents and a diversity of religions. The proportion of the population that is estimated to be religious is lower in Alachua County (43.13%) than in both the rest of Florida (50.79%) and the entire United States (61.49%).
While Catholicism is the largest religion nationwide, Evangelical Protestants make up the most popular religious group in Alachua County. Terry Jones’ Dove World Outreach Center parishioners represent 0.15% of the total 33,865 Evangelical Protestants in the county. They are greatly outnumbered numerically and in public opinion by other Evangelicals.
They are also outnumbered by Alachua County Muslims. According to the 2000 survey, Alachua County was also home to 450 Muslims and one mosque.