BETHLEHEM, PA – U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent issued the following statement regarding the decision of a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Quran, the principal religious text of Islam:

“First and foremost, the concept of burning books is so far removed from the American way of life it’s difficult to understand how anyone in the United States would embrace it as a means of expression. In America we read, discuss and debate books. We do not burn books.

Our rights, including the freedom of expression, are unparalleled internationally and we must always maintain a society where all Americans feel comfortable and confident in expressing their beliefs. While our nation is undoubtedly exceptional for its promotion and protection of individual rights, I believe we are also unequaled in our determination to promote and protect the wellbeing of the people.

What I find most troubling about this pastor’s decision to burn the Quran is the serious threat it may pose to countless Americans. General David Petraeus, Commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, has stated, "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence." Having recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan, where I spent time with General Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, I understand the dangerous conditions members of our military currently face could rapidly deteriorate following this demonstration, jeopardizing the lives of thousands of American soldiers, diplomats and other civilian personnel.

Additionally, this action could impact the wellbeing of Americans far beyond the conflicts of southwest Asia and the Middle East. The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning to all Americans abroad and announced that "U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert”.

Like a growing number of Americans, I implore this church pastor to fully consider the possible ramifications of this controversial and destructive demonstration.”