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Christian TV show out, Muslim pressure group blamed

Bill Keller

A CBS television station in Tampa, Fla., has announced it is taking the ongoing “Live Prayer with Bill Keller” program, on the airwaves since 2003, off after the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations complained of the religious views Keller expressed.

CAIR-Tampa issued a statement that “WTOG-TV (CS44) dropped ‘Live Prayer’ after the station and its parent company CBS received a letter from and had discussions with the Islamic civil rights and advocacy group.”

“It’s clear what happened. CAIR pressured CBS in New York to take us off. I have always dealt with the issues of the day from a biblical worldview on my program,” Keller told WND. “[The Bible] calls Islam a false religion. They took great offense. CBS caved.”

Keller, who has been involved in controversy before, said the last show on the old station will be on Friday, Aug. 31, and the following Monday he will launch a morning program on a competing station.

“We already had our new morning show in the works,” he said.

WTOG station manager Laura Caruso told the St. Petersburg Times the decision to end Keller’s contract was a mutual decision and had nothing to do with complaints from individuals.

But CAIR’s leaders “say both local and network representatives assured them that the program would no longer air on the station after Sept. 11,” according to the Times report.

And Keller told WND he didn’t go willingly.

“I’m saying nothing now that I haven’t been saying for five years,” said Keller. “Ultimately, it was pressure by CAIR that intimidated these people into taking me off the air. It was not mutually agreeable. They told me they were taking me off the air, period.”

CAIR said it had asked earlier this month that CBS remove Keller’s nightly talk show. CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier had told CBS chief Tom Kane as well as WTOG that he objected to the programming.

“In the hate-filled program, ‘Live Prayer with Bill Keller,’ Islam and Muslims are referred to in the most vicious and bigoted of terms. For example on May 2, 2007, host Bill Keller said: ‘Islam is a 1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell. It’s leading a billion peoples [sic] to hell … those who follow this false religion will die and be lost for all eternity.’ On the same program, he also said, ‘The false religion of Islam is about hate, lies and death,'” the letter said.

“It is our belief that anti-Islamic rhetoric like that used in ‘Live Prayer with Bill Keller’ is exactly the type of language that is likely to incite hate crimes against the American Muslim community,” the letter said.

When the cancellation was announced, Bedier said, “While we strongly support freedom of speech and religion, the public airwaves should not be used to promote hatred and bigotry. We commend WTOG-TV and CBS for rejecting any association with those who would demonize a minority group.”

Keller told WND that his new show, Live Prayer AM on WTTA (Ch. 38), will be in a slightly different format, with a few more guests.

“But I will still be dealing with the news and events from a biblical worldview,” he said. “That will remain the same.”

He began broadcasting on WTOG on March 3, 2003, and has done more than 1,170 shows so far, paying the station several hundred thousand dollars a year for the airtime used, he told WND.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, a CAIR spokesman claimed credit for the removal of the program.

“They really based their decision upon our letter,” Ramzy Kilic, CAIR’s civil rights coordinator, told the newspaper. “They really did not know that Bill Keller was involved with this kind of anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

Keller, since beginning his Live Prayer Internet ministry in 1999, has criticized Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as Scientologists.

Earlier this year he earned the wrath of Americans United for Separation of Church and State when he wrote in a devotional that a vote for Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate for president who is a Mormon, is a vote for Satan.

The activist group asked the Internal Revenue Service to begin investigating Keller for possible tax law violations.

At that point, Keller laughed off the claims. “Let them come after me for making a spiritual statement about Mitt Romney. I would love that,” he said.

As WND reported earlier, while some evangelical Christians were defending the presidential candidacy of Romney from an attack by Al Sharpton, Keller took a step in the other direction.

“If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!” he wrote in a daily devotional sent to 2.4 million e-mail subscribers on May 11.

Sharpton, the Democratic Party activist and former presidential candidate, had been widely condemned for singling out Romney’s faith as an issue in the campaign.

“As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation,” he said.

Keller also said Romney wasn’t a target; he was trying to expose the Mormon church, saying when LDS members talk of God and Jesus they are not talking about the God and Jesus of Christianity.

Keller was a businessman convicted of insider trading in 1989, a crime for which he served more than two years in federal prison. After getting out, he received a degree in biblical studies from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and has been in full-time ministry ever since. He estimates he and his volunteers in the ministry have responded to more than 60 million e-mail prayer requests and helped introduce 190,000 people to Christ.

Participants in a Times blog had a range of responses to the news that the television show was being dropped.

“All I can say is … Go Bill, tell it like it is … God bless you,” said Michele.

“When did Bill Keller and the rest of our country lose the right to free speech,” Added “G.” “Each night he is just speaking what God, the God of the Bible says. Bill is not afraid to stand up for Jesus. Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.'”

“More Truth,” added, “Poor, poor abused Muslims. The abuse they’ve had all because of the Billy Graham Organization attacking America on 9/11/01/ Muslims are so peaceful in the way they threaten to kill infidels.”

“JM4” had this to say: “CBS yielding to demands of a supposed ‘civil rights organization’ isn’t surprising. It is surprising that there is no acknowledgement that CAIR is a federal unindicted co-conspirator in a terror related case in TX. Journalism at its finest! HA!”

The writer was referring to evidence at the trial of the Texas-based Islamic charity Holy Land Foundation and five of its former organizers, who are accused of supporting Hamas. Prosecutors named the Council on American-Islamic Relations an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

“LOVE EVERYONE” added this: “In the name of Christanity, (sic) Jews are bad, God only lives in the south where he told them blacks should be slaves and hatred was okay. Christianity has killed more people than any other religion on earth. I choose to beleive (sic) in GOD not US Christianity.”

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