Joel Osteen Megachurch Is Slammed Over Harvey Actions

Lots of contention over whether Lakewood Church is truly inaccessible
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2017 6:03 AM CDT
Joel Osteen Megachurch's Harvey Response Creates Uproar
This April 24, 2010 file photo shows Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen at Dodger Stadium during his "A Night of Hope" in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch lives up to the "mega" part of its name: It's the former home to the NBA's Houston Rockets and boasts a seating capacity of more than 16,000—space that some feel would best serve as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees. ABC News reports that in response to these calls, the church issued the following statement Sunday on Facebook: "Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe. Please see the list below for safe shelters around our city, and please share this with those in need!" The response didn't go over well, particularly after Houstonians started posting photos around the church that indicated it wasn't flooded. Snopes fact-checked the situation and found it a mixture of true and false.

Snopes rounds up tweets that suggest the area was flooded earlier, and that roads around it might be experiencing flooding. HuffPost suggests something similar via reports from freelance reporter Ruth Graham, who says a rep told her the church wasn't flooded but nearby roads were, which would make accessing it challenging. Lakewood sent photos to ABC News that it says show flooding in and around its facility, and also a statement that reads in part, "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." A rep for the church echoed that to the Chronicle, saying preparations are being made to host the displaced. A FEMA rep tells ABC it's expecting 30,000 will need shelter; the city's convention center is already 2,000 over its shelter capacity of 5,000. (More Hurricane Harvey stories.)

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