"It's not an anti-mosque," Keller said of his proposed center, which would be the first physical church constructed by his online ministry, LivePrayer.com. "For lack of better terminology, it's an old-time Evangelistic center where we're going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ -- the truth of the Bible -- and get some folks saved."
Later, however, he rallied against both the mosque project's Muslim leader Imam Feisal Rauf, as well as Fox News personality Glenn Beck, who is Mormon, calling them both "false prophets," and asserting that both men and their followers would end up in hell. (Video courtesy of Salon's Justin Elliott.)
"When Glenn Beck says, 'I believe in Jesus,' the problem is, he doesn't believe in the Jesus of the Bible," Keller preached. "And we have a culture now that is biblically illiterate, unchurched, and when Glenn Beck gathers millions of people through his radio and TV programs, and starts talking about biblical theology, he is leading people into a lie from hell and their souls too."
He added that Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi, despite being a "nice person," was in hell as well.
Between 40 and 50 people attended the hour-and-a-half long event, which began at 11 a.m. and was held in the ballroom of the New York Marriott Downtown hotel, located across the street from ground zero. Although members of the press made up nearly half of the audience, it was unclear how many of the roughly 20-odd non-media-affiliated attendees there because they wanted to actually worship, versus the number gathered there based on their curiosity of Keller and his goals.
For example, Richard Borowski, who supports the controversial mosque project called Park51, said he attended the service under the assumption that Keller "was coming out strongly against the mosque," but was surprised to hear the televangelist "pretty much come out in favor of it."
"We have a firewall between church and state to keep our country from being ruled by any one religion," Borowski told AOL News Surge Desk once the service had concluded. "Nothing would uphold and demonstrate that more than the construction of [both of] these houses of worship."
Even the speaker who preceded Keller during the service, Vincent Forras, a 9/11 volunteer and first responder, said he still had "not made his mind up" about the fiery televangelist or his project, although he did confess to being against the construction of Park51. Forras, who credits his Christian faith for his survival during a secondary building collapse on Sept. 11, is co-founder of the Gear Up Foundation, a charity for other 9/11 first responders.
Throughout Keller's sermon, two protesters who appeared to be 9/11 "Truthers" sporadically heckled Keller, shouting various denunciations, including "Liar!" at him from the crowd. At one point, a man rose and unfurled a red flag, before loudly shouting that Keller was "a false prophet," before being escorted out by Keller's bodyguards.
Keller said his organization is looking at three different sites for his Christian center and will settle on a final one for his project "within the next few weeks." He plans to open a permanent center, which will host services seven days a week, in a remodeled building this January.
After the service, the televangelist and his wife visited the Park51 site up the street, where three activists who support Park51 questioned and berated him, while a few others against the Islamic center voiced their support for his ministry.