Religion
Religion

Joel Osteen Slammed For Closing Church During Storm (Photos)

| by Michael Howard

Televangelist Joel Osteen is under fire for shuttering his Houston megachurch in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

On Aug. 27, while people throughout the state of Texas were seeking shelter from the devastating storm, Osteen's Lakewood Church announced on Facebook that its doors were closed "due to severe flooding."

Included in the post was a list of shelters where Houston residents could stay temporarily.

Many people took exception to Osteen's decision, noting that the church could house over 16,000 people. The backlash worsened when images appeared to show that the church was not severely affected by the flood.

The following day, Osteen tweeted: "Jesus promises us peace that passes understanding. That's peace when it doesn't make sense."

"OPEN YOUR CHURCH," public relations executive Danny Deraney tweeted back. "You have taken so much money away from your people to live like a king. It's the least you could do."

"Joel Osteen's 'Mega' Church closed its doors to flood victims," another Twitter user wrote. "I would love to see him try to explain that one to God."

Osteen's father-in-law, Donald Iloff, addressed the criticism with a statement in which he explained that the church -- which used to be the Houston Rockets' stadium -- was ready to open its doors to displaced Texans.

"We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need," Iloff said, according to 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."

He added that several hundred people can be housed on the second floor.

The church also provided photos of the inside of the building, sections of which appeared to be flooded.

Blogger and church member Lynne Gabriel uploaded four of the images to Twitter, describing the criticism as "sickening."

"Seriously quite sickening when people spread negative news without knowing the situation," she wrote, according to People. "This is the situation of our church."

Hurricane Harvey dumped a record-breaking 48 inches of rain on Houston, according to CNN. Thousands of people have been rescued after being trapped in flooded homes, while many more are still stranded. Four people have died.

An additional 15 inches of rain is expected to fall on southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas in the coming days, pushing thousands more people out of their homes and into shelters.

Sources: People, Danny Deraney/Twitter, CNN (2) / Featured Image: RobertMWorsham/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Charles Clymer/Twitter via People, Lynne Gabriel/Twitter via People

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