Pastor Terry Jones is a homophobic used furniture salesman who has become famous solely through the use of controversy.
The 59-year-old runs the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, Florida, whose congregation numbers just a few dozen.
The church is based in a 20-acre compound where Jones lives with his wife, Sylvia, and is said to regularly patrol the grounds with a pistol strapped to his hip.
He took over the church in 1996 on the death of its founder, Dr Don Northrup, after spending 20 years as a missionary in Europe, including Germany.
His chief enemies are homosexuals and Muslims, although he insists it is only radical Islam which he opposes.
In the most recent incident, which sparked the slaughter in Afghanistan, Pastor Jones was preaching at a service at his church on March 20 when his colleage, Pastor Wayne Sapp, set a copy of the Koran alight.
However, Pastor Jones denied any responsibility for the riot in Mazar-e Sharif, in which around 20 people died, including two who were reportedly beheaded, in what is the worst incident of its kind in recent years.
He said he was “absolutely not responsible” for the atrocities, and tried to move the conversation to Muslims, saying: “We must take a serious, serious look at Islam. It’s a violent religion that promotes acts of violence. I believe we need to bring this before the UN.”
It is not clear how it took over a week for the burning to come to light but, in the past, members of the media have refrained from publicising his activities for fear of inadvertently spreading his message.
It is the latest and by far the most severe incident in which the pastor has been involved.
Last year, Jones threatened to burn copies of the Muslim holy book to mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York.
He was only dissuaded from doing so after President Barack Obama personally intervened to say such an act would endanger the lives of US troops.
In January this year, the pastor was barred from entering the UK by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, “for the public good” after which he accused the Government of “the sabotage of the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression”.
Pastor Jones had originally been invited by the English Defence League to attend a rally in Luton, Beds, against the presence of Islam in Britain, but that invitation was withdraw.
He subsequently began promoting International Judge the Koran Day, to be held on March 20, which he said would put the Koran “on trial”.
In the past he has erected a sign outside the church to protest against the decision of Craig Lowe, a gay county commissioner, to run for mayor. The sign read: “No homo mayor.”
Last July, he put up another sign that stated “Islam is of the Devil” to which he added an effigy of a Muslim hanging a Christian. Children of the congregation were then sent to school wearing tee-shirts bearing the slogan. The clothing was put on sale on the church website.
He has published a guide called Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran; railed against the rights of women to have abortions; and describes homosexuality as “a sin”.
When Pastor Jones was in Germany, his daughter Emma, one of his three children, described the church as a cult and accused them of financial and workplace abuse.
Dove World Outreach is funded by the pastor’s furniture firm, TS & Company, which buys vintage items from Europe and sells them in the US. The employees are members of the church, who are understood to work for no wages and live rent-free in run-down properties owned by the pastor and his wife.