Celebrity televangelist Joel Osteen is under Twitter fire for not opening his church to victims of Tropical Storm Harvey.
Osteen is the head of Lakewood Church in Houston, which is housed in The Summit (the former NBA stadium of the Rockets), which holds 16,800 people.
The storm, which started out as a Category 4 hurricane but was reduced to a tropical storm once it hit land, has showered Texas with more than 30 inches of rain, has left 300,000 people without power and displaced 30,000 in temporary shelters across the state. FEMA is expecting as many as 450,000 potential disaster victims.
On Monday night, the Lakewood Church released a statement to Mediaite saying: “We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need. We are prepared to house people once 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.”
However, the church did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Lakewood Church’s Facebook page on Sunday said the church was “inaccessible due to severe flooding,” though the message doesn’t clarify whether the church itself is flooded. Pictures of the church purportedly taken since Harvey made landfall seem to show that it is less affected than other areas of Houston. Here’s a photo:
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) August 28, 2017
On Osteen’s Twitter, he is encouraging his followers to visit the church website to help with relief. The link he provides offers a donation button and a volunteer button, the latter of which shows a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, a disaster relief organization. “We know the need is great. That much is clear. We do not yet know all the ways we can help,” the church’s website says. Well, for one, many on Twitter say, is to open up the church for those who are in need of shelter.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 28, 2017
Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 26, 2017
“Do you think Joel Osteen realizes he is basically the innkeeper in the Christmas story right now,” one Twitter user quipped. “Joel Osteen doesn’t want all those wet, homeless Houstonians destroying the upholstery in his fake Christian grift church scheme,” chimed in another.
Twitter users also noticed that Osteen was blocking users who called him out. “Joel Osteen won’t open his church @lakewoodch for you dirty, wet, recently homeless people. He’s too busy blocking people on Twitter,” one user said.
When TheWrap called Lakewood Church for comment, an automated message said that due to “inclement weather,” no one was able to take our call or prayer requests.
See below for more angry reactions.
The Christianity that Joel Osteen preaches wants you to open your hearts, donate your $$, while he keeps his church closed to those in need.
— Simar (@sahluwal) August 28, 2017
Do you think Joel Osteen realizes he is basically the innkeeper in the Christmas story right now https://t.co/tZPbb7ciBm
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) August 28, 2017
Joel Osteen closes the doors to his mega-church when he could be helping out tens of thousands.
Reason #5,382 I think religion is fucked.
— Brian O'Sullivan (@osullivanauthor) August 28, 2017
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 28, 2017
— Aged Cheddar (@HadToJoin4This) August 28, 2017
A message of Christian love to all those without shelter in Houston right now who seek refuge in Joel Osteen’s 16,800-seat Lakewood church: pic.twitter.com/DDywqjA4HG
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) August 28, 2017