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.
Joel Osteen won’t open his church that holds 16,000 to hurricane victims because it only provides shelter from taxes. #HoustonStrong
— Alan Spencer (@MrAlanSpencer) August 28, 2017
This was needed at the outset – with thousands awaiting rescue and people dying, actions in line with God speak louder than words.
— Madaline Zannes (@zanneslaw) August 29, 2017
Will they finally practice what they preach? https://t.co/exstqAgoa3
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 29, 2017
Joel Osteen’s megachurch is designed for the rising tithe, not tide.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) August 28, 2017
Folks, the megachurch carpets just got shampooed so we can’t let y’all in; but we do have several thousand jars of hair gel we can donate.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) August 29, 2017
I seem to remember a story about a family in need looking for a place that would open their doors
— Lisette Oropesa (@Lisette_Oropesa) August 29, 2017
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.
Lakewood is receiving people who need shelter. We are also coordinating with the city as a collection site for distribution.
— Lakewood Church (@lakewoodch) August 29, 2017
Church officials did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by the time of publication.
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