Monday, September 06, 2010
Evangelist Near Ground Zero Assails Islam and Mosque - NYTimes.com
The Internet evangelist Bill Keller moved toward the dais in tiny, quick steps on Sunday, exhibiting the anticipation of a man ready to address a crowd. Roughly 60 people stood before him in a hotel meeting room in Lower Manhattan, temporary quarters of his Christian center, his response to the mosque planned for an empty building nearby.
“If we’re going to do something in New York City, we’re going to do something that’s not just bold and visible, but something that has a lasting presence,” said Mr. Keller, who is from the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Later, he told reporters that Muslims “can go to their mosque and preach the lies of Islam and I’ll come here to preach the truth of the Gospel.”
Since its organizers attended a community board meeting four months ago, the mosque — part of a Muslim community center that would offer a day care center, an auditorium and a pool — quickly became fodder for a national debate. Much of the opposition is over its location: two blocks north of ground zero.
Mr. Keller promoted his center, which he called the 9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero, as a religious counterweight to the mosque, which he repeatedly called a “victory mosque” or a monument to “a great Muslim military accomplishment,” as he explained it at the inaugural service at the New York Marriott Downtown Hotel on West Street, two blocks south of ground zero.
His career arc makes him a somewhat unusual standard-bearer: Mr. Keller became a preacher after serving a sentence in federal prison for insider trading, as he says in a biography posted on his Web site.
Another religious huckster, peddling bigotry, comes out of the woodwork.
John H. Armwood