Car incentive drives Florida pastor to reconsider Quran burning

Friday, October 22, 2010 | 2:46 p.m. CDT

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, New Jersey — A Florida pastor who drew international criticism by threatening to burn a copy of the Quran picked up a free car on Friday, his reward from a New Jersey car dealer for calling it off.

Former New York Giants tackle Brad Benson, who is now New Jersey's largest car dealer, offered Florida pastor Terry Jones a 2011 Hyundai Accent worth $14,200 if he would agree to never burn the Muslim holy book. Jones had threatened to do it on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Jones never burned the Quran. On Friday, the Gainesville, Fla., pastor arrived at Brad Benson Mitsubishi Hyundai in South Brunswick to collect a gray 2011 Hyundai Accent, which he promptly donated to a charity.

The pastor said the offer Benson made in one of his dealership's quirky radio ads was not the reason he decided to cancel the Quran burning, and that he only heard about it a few weeks after Sept. 11.

"We thought if he wants to give a car, then why not take it and pass it on to another nonprofit organization," Jones said.

Jones donated the car to a Jersey City shelter that helps abused women.

Paul Johnson, the chief financial officer for Women Rising, said he was surprised to hear that the shelter was getting the car and under such unusual circumstances.

"I couldn't believe it at first. I thought it was a prank," Johnson said.

Benson added giant removable vinyl American flag-emblazoned peace signs on the hood and roof, which he said were meant as a "little jab" at Jones.

"I'm just really glad that in the end something really good came out of all this," Benson said.

Benson paid for the pastor to fly out to New Jersey so that Jones could fill out paperwork.

Security was tight on Friday at the dealership. Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats since he first said he would burn a Quran.

When Jones threatened to burn the Quran — which many Muslims would view as sacrilege — his plan drew opposition across the world.

President Barack Obama appealed to him on television, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates called him personally. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said carrying out the plan would have endangered American troops.

The Quran commercial was part of a regular "idiot award" segment Benson does which singles out newsmakers. Others have included actress Lindsey Lohan, actor Mel Gibson and baseball star Roger Clemens.

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