Televangelist preacher Joel Osteen is under fire for closing the doors to his Houston megachurch during and after Hurricane Harvey.


The $50 million preacher, who lives in a $10 million home, closed the doors to his megachurch, Lakewood Church, in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane, despite the fact that it can hold up to 17,000 people. Osteen posted a notice on his website that the church would be closed over the weekend, and he kept it closed on Monday as well. The preacher blamed the flooding of the highway in front of the church for his decision, but photos of the highway show that it was dry Monday morning.

Instead, Osteen posted hopeful messages on Twitter, but that only drew more criticism. “Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family,” he said on Aug. 26. Then on Aug. 27, he wrote, “There’s a simple phrase you have to get down in your spiirit, “God’s got this.”” And the following day on Aug. 28, “Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding. That’s peace when it doesn’t make sense.”

Church spokesperson Donald Ilof defended Osteen’s decision to keep the church closed, saying that the city is already treating thousands of flood victims at George R. Brown Convention Center. “It has everything inside there – medicine, doctors, places to sleep. It’s amazing what they’re doing there to make people comfortable,” he told The New York Post.

Twitter user Charles Clymer posted the church notice photo, and a follow-up on Monday night at 8:40 pm. “A source at Lakewood Church just told me they’re planning to open their doors to Houston’s homeless and displaced. Finally,” the tweet read. He then posted photos of blow-up beds and shared that the church was preparing to open its doors to displaces victims of the hurricane.

On Aug. 28, Osteen also posted a link to donate or volunteer in the aftermath to his website. “#Houston’s Joel Osteen has a net worth over $50 million and a church that holds 16,800 but this is all he’s offering,” said another Twitter user in response.

And a little after noon on Aug. 29, Osteen finally said that the doors of Lakewood Church had been opened. “Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians. Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.”

Hurricane Harvey dropped 49 inches of rain in Houston over the weekend, breaking the all-time Texas rainfall record from a tropical storm. As of Tuesday, more than 17,000 people have sought refuge from the storm, according to the American Red Cross. Harvey is now moving down over the Gulf of Mexico, and will return to the US mainland near the Texas-Louisiana border, likely during the day Wednesday. It is then expected to move slowly northeast and wrap up by Saturday.

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