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Twitter Blasts Joel Osteen Over Handling Of Harvey Refugees

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

A megachurch in Houston announced Tuesday that it would shelter Hurricane Harvey victims, but not before a flood of critics lambasted the church’s previously shuttered doors.

Houston residents and national onlookers took to social media to condemn Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, over rumors that the church would not open its doors to refugees. Church officials initially claimed in a Facebook post that it was inaccessible due to flooding, and directed refugees to other shelters and facilities. The church building is the former stadium of the Houston Rockets, and boasts a sanctuary capable of seating 16,000 people.

The church issued a statement on its website Monday saying that it wanted to help but did “not yet know all the ways we can help,” and requested volunteers and donations to aid in the church’s relief efforts.

Donald Iloff, spokesman for the church and Osteen’s father-in-law, later responded to criticism leveled at Osteen and stated that claims of the church turning away refugees were untrue.

“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need,” Iloff told CNN. “We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.”

The church announced Tuesday morning on Twitter that it was receiving evacuees and donations of supplies.

Church officials did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by the time of publication.

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