Houston Police arrested six people at Pastor Joel Osteen's giant Lakewood Church on Sunday after they stood up and began heckling him while he was preaching in front of thousands of worshippers.
The six were reportedly from Wells, Texas, and associated with the controversial Church of Wells
, reports Houston CBS affiliate KHOU
, and churchgoers said the heckling scared them in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina, murders.
"He jumped up with his Bible and started screaming 'Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel,' and Joel kind of just repeated scripture and they just escorted them out," said churchgoer Casey Eaglin, who told KHOU that he was at Sunday's 11 a.m. service and sitting just a few seats away from the protesters.
He admits that he was "terrified for a quick second," because when just one heckler started yelling, he thought it was "just a random heckler, but then you start seeing the second, the third."
Lakewood Church officials told KHOU that many of their volunteer ushers, who carried the hecklers out, are also law enforcement officers and are often armed during the services so they can act quickly.
Eaglin said he is thankful for the quick response.
"For a second there I started thinking about the church shooting that happened and I was thinking, 'Oh, God something bad is about to happen' but they were real quick," he told KHOU.
Police said the people arrested are being charged with criminal trespassing.
Another churchgoer, Anwar Richardson, recorded the hecklers and was posting on Twitter
while the events were unfolding:
"The praise and worship was good," Richardson later told Houston ABC affiliate KTRK
"His wife had just delivered a quick message. And the moment he started to preach, somebody gets up and they yell, 'Joel Osteen, you're a liar.'"
Richardson's video shows people being escorted from the megachurch, which is in a former sports arena, and Osteen at the pulpit saying, "Thank you all for your patience and we'll just continue to receive what God has for us. It's a good day to be alive."
He told the television station that after the sixth heckler started yelling, he and his wife decided to leave the church.
"My son was sleeping in my lap, and I looked at my wife and she was nervous and we just decided we have to get out of here," he told KTRK.
Another witness told the station that Osteen kept his composure and went on with the service.
"He really got the message out and he said no weapon formed against me shall prosper," the witness said. "So kudos to him for delivering a good service."
Richardson, who was in Houston from Austin to visit his family, also admitted thoughts about Charleston entered his mind.
"All I could think of is, you don't know what's going on, and I just can't wait to find out, so I've gotta get out of there," he said.
Lakewood Church spokesman Donald Iloff Jr. said the hecklers were asked to leave, but refused, so they were escorted out. The Church of Wells has not commented on the incident.
Watch the video here.
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