Preacher Joel Osteen has been harshly criticized for his response to Hurricane Harvey.
Osteen, who leads Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, initially said his megachurch was closed and would be unable to assist evacuees seeking shelter due to flooding and the building being inaccessible. The church, housed in the former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, has a capacity of 16,000 people and was converted into a megachurch in 2003.
Afterword spread that the church was closed due to the flooding, reporters (including former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury) and internet sleuths took matters into their own hands and found that Lakewood wasn’t nearly as bad as Osteen had played it out to be.
Since the criticism, though, Lakewood announced it would open its doors for all of those people who needed it and had been accepting donations of all kinds for victims of the catastrophic flooding.
Osteen spoke out on behalf of Lakewood, saying it’s “never closed (its) doors,” adding that it would “continue to be a distribution center for those in need.” He also appeared on CNN on Wednesday to explain his reasoning for the mix-up. He said he wasn’t entirely sure “how this notion got started that we’re not a shelter and we’re not taking people.”
“There was a time, (CNN host) Chris (Cuomo), that the place was flooded,” Osteen said during the interview. “There was a safety issue the first day or two. … We would never put people in here until we know that it’s safe, and it was not safe those days, let me tell you.”
Even with the latest developments, the internet has continued to lash out against Osteen, who has a net worth of around $50 million and resides in a multi-million dollar mansion in the Houston area.