In an interview with Der Spiegel, Pastor Terry Jones’ daughter Emma Jones describes her father as a megalomaniac who she characterizes as a delusional cult leader.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did you grow up?
Emma Jones: We were raised in a very Christian household, and it was very strict. But also very social. We received visits from people from all over the world and were open to everything.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Former members of his church have spoken of psychological cruelty, forced work, financial irregularities and calls to beat ones own children.
Jones: My mother, Lisa Jones, died in 1996 of a heart attack. Shortly thereafter, my father remarried and I left the church at age 17. In 2005, he offered me a job as a bookkeeper in a company belonging to the church, which sold donated furniture on eBay. I gained a new insight, and realized that my father preached things and did things that I didn’t find to be in accordance with the Bible at all. He demanded that people completely obey him and his second wife, Sylvia. Both are extremely obsessed with power. I saw genuine religious delusion. A typical indication of a sect. Both of them wanted to control everything.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you confront your father at the time?
Jones: Yes. I didn’t agree with those things which I saw as exploitation and psychological abuse. I repeatedly brought those things up. In the end, he called me into his office and said he received a message from God for me: God would take my children and then kill me. I stood up and left. Then I contacted members of the church and tried to open their eyes. And I was successful.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It is true, then, that the church in Cologne ousted your father itself?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did he leave Cologne willingly?
Jones: It was a mixture. We confronted him and demanded that he correct his errors. But he didn’t give in. When we brought up the church finances, he disappeared the next day.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are you still involved with the church that he left behind?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you believe your father is serious about burning the Korans?
Jones: I do. My father is not one to give up. As his daughter, I can see the good-natured core deep inside him. But I think he needs help.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is your father a megalomaniac?
Jones: I’m afraid he is. As his daughter, it is difficult for me to say that.
ABC News adds:
Shane Butcher, who was expelled from the church for disobeying Jones, told the paper [the Gainesville Sun] that he worked for the pastor’s company for up 72 hours a week without pay and meals were provided from a “food bank.”
Butcher said punishments for disobedience ranged from cleaning the barnacles off Jones’s boat in Tampa, to carrying a life-size wooden cross or writing out all of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible.
“We carried a card that said ‘obedience is always blessed,’ ” he was quoted as saying.
Indeed, the church has a laundry list of dicta, called the “Academy Rulebook.” Created by his Sylvia Jones in 2007, the rulebook directs students to sever most contact with family members. “Family occasions like wedding, funerals or Birthdays are no exception to this rule,” the rulebook says.
“No phone calls. Exceptions can be made under certain circumstances but only after receiving permission.”
The syntactically-challenged rulebook also barred “Singles” from having “romantic relationships to the opposite sex…Except work things, there is no need to talk at all, or even flirt!”
Sarah Posner sees beyond the drama surrounding Pastor Jones a crisis of much greater proportions — one that has come to permeate American society: the utter ordinariness of demeaning Islam.
That ordinariness, and the ordinariness of accepting it, is why an evangelical like Joel Rosenberg can on the one hand denounce the Qur’an burning but in the same breath write, “I believe those who follow Islam are mistaken and misguided and need to leave Islam and receive Jesus Christ by faith as their personal Savior and Lord.” It’s why Joe Lieberman can say that burning the Qur’an is “inconsistent with American values” yet stand shoulder to shoulder with John Hagee, who has said, “Islam in general — those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews,” and whose entire worldview is predicated on vanquishing Islam. Or why Sarah Palin can say burning the Qur’an is “antithetical to American ideals,” but equate it in provocativeness to “building a mosque at Ground Zero.” Or why she can defend Franklin Graham’s insistence that Islam is an “evil and wicked religion.”