This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If a tree falls in a remote forest with nobody around to hear it, does it make any noise?
Similarly, as published in the Orlando Sentinel the other day: "If a sad little man burns some Qurans in the woods, and the media aren't there to film it, is it news?"
Because of early printing deadlines for The Tribune's Sunday Opinion section, I am writing this column on Thursday, two days before "this sad little man," the Rev. Terry Jones of a nondenominational Christian church in Gainesville, Fla., was scheduled to burn copies of the Muslim faith's sacred Quran as a form of protest for what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
As I finished the column, it was reported that Jones was bowing to pressure and canceling the book burning. If he holds to that, great. If he doesn't, the press should not be there to record it.
As a member of the Fourth Estate and a staunch believer in the First Amendment, I feel that with great privilege comes great responsibility. As important as it is for the press to be allowed access to the affairs of government and to report with impunity on what it finds, the idea of the free press uniting in a decision not to cover an act or event that is planned in order to create a sensation also is appealing to me.
Before Jones announced he was backing down, Fox News said it would not cover the event, and the Associated Press said it would not transmit stories or images of the Quran burning.
I would like to think those decisions by a responsible press were at least partly responsible for Jones' about-face. Jones and his ilk thrive on attention and so should get none.
There was an unfortunate young man in the news several years ago named Cody Judy, who pretended to have a bomb at a devotional at Brigham Young University and threatened to blow up the place if he was not publicly proclaimed a prophet.
Judy went to prison for that, and upon release he ran for the U.S. Senate. Then, as now, I believe that he deserved no attention from the press. Just because you declare yourself a political candidate, or a minister for that matter, doesn't automatically make you newsworthy.
It would be a shame if the so-called Rev. Terry Jones is seen around the world as representative of Christianity.
Here is what real Christians say:
"The idea of burning the Quran is offensive and sacrilegious not only to Muslims but to people of faith and good will. The sacred books of most, if not all religions, are held as divinely inspired, cherished and honored by believers and respected by members of other faiths." The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of the Salt Lake City Catholic Diocese.
"The very thought of a group from one religion burning sacred texts from another faith's tradition is grotesque to me. This is not freedom of religion, but surely an abuse of freedom. I hope pressure from many quarters will be brought to bear to prevent this wretched act. It has the potential to cause extraordinary damage throughout the world with no redeeming benefit." Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, Episcopal Bishop of Utah.
"A key tenet of our faith is to accord everyone the freedom to worship as they choose. It is regrettable that anyone would regard the burning of any scriptural text as a legitimate form of protest or disagreement." Scott Trotter, media relations manager, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
E-mail Paul Rolly at firstname.lastname@example.org