Houston televangelist Joel Osteen has already come under fire for refusing to open his megachurch’s doors to provide shelter to those displaced by Hurricane Harvey due to dubious accounts of “flooding,” but now it seems as though the country’s fifth richest pastor has found a way to take advantage of the natural disaster.
Osteen posted a message on the website of his Lakewood Church about ways for visitors to provide “hurricane disaster relief.” And while that sounds well and good on the surface, the details are sinister.
Opening with messages of love and support, Osteen avoids overt mention of financial contributions, framing it as an opportunity to volunteer (a small button linking to a volunteer sign up page is featured at the bottom of the page). But right next to the post is a large donation form simply titled “GIVE NOW,” that lists suggested contributions of $50, $100 or $200. Nowhere does Osteen detail how the funds will be used, even admitting that “We do not yet know all the ways we can help.”
Lakewood really out here asking for donations!!! How about Joel Osteen donates his millions pic.twitter.com/sXZjiWMPY7
— bacon burgr (@thebeastjulissa) August 29, 2017
If the vaguery wasn’t troubling enough — especially considering Osteen’s dicey fundraising in the past, not to mention his net worth of more than $56 million and the fact that his church is in the taxpayer-funded former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets — the post mentions that Lakewood Church is partnering with an organization called “Samaritan’s Purse” to provide relief.
Joel Osteen is soliciting donations for Harvey. His personal charity has an F-rating and refuses to disclose to BBB.
DONATE ELSEWHERE! pic.twitter.com/XjJ1zm2X5s
— James (@JaySaysStuff) August 28, 2017
Samaritan’s Purse is run by Franklin Graham, the son of controversial evangelist Billy Graham and a noted Islamophobe, and has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny:
Samaritan’s Purse has been under the microscope as Graham draws full salary from the organization, even though he also receives a full salary as the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham takes in a haul of millions as a result that is reportedly higher than most non-profit CEO salaries.
There was also a 2011 lawsuit regarding volunteers in a hostage situation in Sudan, and a scandal in El Salvador when the organization “blurred the line between church and state” after an earthquake, as it forced potential recipients of publicly funded aid to sit through prayer services before receiving anything.
It all just begs the question, why is Osteen so reluctant to open his doors to those in need, but he’s more than willing to line his pockets and those of his televangelist friends? Well, he is a devotee of the “prosperity gospel.”
Religion is the ultimate hustle… To Joel Osteen, if flood victims aren't coughing up "donations", they're not stepping foot in his church.
— モノリシック (@monolithic87) August 29, 2017