By Lucas Seiler
A North Naples community was outraged over a youth pastor's raising of a Nazi flag for hundreds to see.
And now, the pastor is apologizing.
"To the veterans of my community, the Jewish people - who fought so hard to eradicate that symbol and its ideology - I had no right to do that," John Gursoy said.
It happened on a Saturday morning at the Quarry, a gated community near Collier Boulevard and Immokalee Road.
Gursoy said he was upset after receiving a letter demanding he remove a boat with a two-stroke engine from the community lake after a recent decision by the homeowners association to begin enforcing a ban on them. He said, at the time, comparing the board to Nazi Germany seemed like a good idea.
Neighbors didn't agree.
"A Nazi flag! That is a sign of hatred and a sign of millions of people getting killed for that," said Megan Jerzyk. "I got out of the car and was trying to rip down the streamers. I said, 'This is just horrible that somebody has done this!'"
She and several others began calling the Collier County Sheriff's Office demanding someone remove the flag, and about 40 people complained on a community thread called NextDoor.com.
"That's a universal sign of hatred and bad things in the world," Tim Jerzek said. "And everyone knows that."
CCSO said they told Gursoy to remove the flag, and he did.
County code enforcement is looking into the incident because the equipment used to raise the flag came from Gursoy's landscaping company.
"It was in very bad taste and I realized that very quickly that that was not an appropriate symbol," he said. "I apologize for the methodology and departing from my faith-based principles of how to handle something in a more graceful way."
Celebration Community Church fired Gursoy from his position.
"I did explain to the kids that what I did was wrong and to the church," he said.