Outdoor Burning of Korans Stymied by Fire Code

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Eugene Volokh

The Gainesville [Sun site reports:

The city of Gainesville has denied Dove World Outreach Center’s application for a burn permit to set fire to copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, but the church says it plans to burn the holy books anyway.


Gene Prince, interim chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue, said Wednesday that under the city’s fire prevention ordinance, an open burning of books is not allowed....

Deputy Chief Tim Hayes, who serves as the department’s fire marshal, said he and an investigator went to the church’s 20-acre property on Northwest 37th Street earlier this month to determine what the burn would entail.

Under the fire ordinances the City Commission adopted last year, bonfires aren’t allowed without a permit, Hayes said....

“It wouldn’t matter what the book is they’re burning,” [Hayes] said....

The relevant article of the Gainesville, Florida, Code of Ordinances is here. It indeed bans “outdoor burning” and “open burning” of various things, including “Newspaper” and “Corrugated cardboard, container board, office paper.” (Barbecues and certain other fires are permitted.) Of course, if the church wanted to burn the books indoors — with proper ventilation, one would hope — it could still do so, even if it broadcast the event on streaming video. For examples of outdoor fire bans being applied to flag burning, see this story and City of Columbus v. Meyer (Ohio Ct. App. 2003). City of Columbus v. Meyer seems on point here, and also seems to be correct.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.