Joel Osteen defended his decision to delay opening his megachurch to victims of Harvey, and said his church has always been open to those displaced by the storm.
“The church has always been open,” Osteen said. “We received shelter victims just the first day or two. But there was a time that the place was flooded. … We have flood gates right behind me over to the right, and it was within a foot of that. So there was a safety issue the first day or two.”
Osteen said the idea that he would turn people away is absurd, and anyone who says that is spreading false information.
“The idea that we wouldn’t receive people, I mean we’ve been here in this community for 60 years. In Tropical Storm Allison, we housed 3,000 people so we’ve always been open,” he said. “There’s a big shelter four miles away. The city shelter that has all the dormitories. Once they filled up people started coming here, but how this notion got started that we’re not a shelter and we’re not taking people in is a false narrative.”
When co-host Chris Cuomo asked if anyone had been turned away Osteen said, “We don’t turn anybody away. People came at some point, and we would take them to different shelters, or they would choose to go to other shelter. Nobody’s turned away. But the first day or two, I think it happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that’s when this building was not accessible. It can look like it’s high and dry, but they can’t see behind us. We would never put people in here until we know that it’s safe, and it was not safe at those days I can tell you.”
Cuomo asked if the fallout on social media had anything to do with Osteen’s decision to open the church, and he said that it inspired his team to work faster.
“I have never read one of those. Now of course my team told me, hey we are getting blasted because all of this, but we always wanted to take people in. Our doors were open. Did it change anything? I don’t know. It probably helped us to step up some things, to do it faster, but you got to get back to a safety issue first and to stay on mission. And that is taking care of people … this is a big building you can’t just open it up,” Osteen said.
“It was a big storm, but maybe next time we would be a shelter before the storm. But nobody dreamed that even the mayor, he never dreamed he’d fill up 10,000 evacuees in the big shelter just down the street from us, so it’s caught a lot of us by surprise,” Osteen concluded.
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