Fire code snuffs out book-burning plan

By The Associated Press
07.14.04

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A local church's plan for an old-fashioned book-burning has been thwarted by city and county fire codes.

Preachers and their congregations throughout American church history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God. The Rev. Scott Breedlove, pastor of the Jesus Church, wanted to rekindle that tradition in a July 28 ceremony in which books, CDs, videos and clothing would have been thrown into the flames.

Not so fast, city officials said.

"We don't want a situation where people are burning rubbish as a recreational fire," said Brad Brenneman, the fire department's district chief.

Linn County won't allow a fire outside city limits, either. The county's air-quality division prohibits the transporting of materials from the city to the county for burning.

"I can pretty much guarantee you that we would be denying a burn permit for those activities," said Tony Daugherty, the county's senior air-pollution specialist.

Breedlove said a city fire inspector suggested shredding the offending material, but Breedlove said that wouldn't seem biblical.

"I joked with the guy that St. Paul never had to worry about fire codes," Breedlove said.

Breedlove said he got the idea during a Bible study of St. Paul's ministry in Ephesus in the Book of Acts: "A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly."

"I said, 'For once let's do something,'" Breedlove said. "Let's go to our homes and look through and see maybe if there are movies we bought that we shouldn't have as a Christian. Maybe there are books, CDs, music or clothes that are not modest."

The new plan calls for members of the church to throw materials into garbage cans and then light candles to symbolically "burn" the material.

Breedlove said he knows many people recoil at the notion of burning books. But, he said, "I would say that our society has come to a point where there are a lot of things we say we don't do anymore that maybe we should be doing."