Joel Osteen and his Lakewood megachurch recently came under fire after the Houston Chronicle published a story detailing how the church accepted $4.4 million worth of coronavirus relief loans.
After the Chronicle published their story, several prominent Twitter users took to the internet calling Osteen a liar, claiming that he had insisted that the church would not apply for any money through the Paycheck Protection Program.
According to Relevant Magazine, however, Lakewood spokesperson Donald Iloff said in a statement that “Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood did not initially apply for PPP assistance during the first half of the program. However, as the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood finally applied for the PPP loan and has been able to provide full salaries and benefits, including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families.”
Iloff also noted that Osteen and his wife, who stopped taking salaries from the church in 2004, were not given any of the money from the loan. “It is important to note that, since 2004, Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen have not received salaries from Lakewood Church, and the PPP funds do not provide any personal financial benefit to them, whatsoever,” he asserted, according to the New York Post.
Additionally, Robert Downen, the reporter who wrote the now-viral Chronicle story, took to Twitter to defend Osteen and his church.
He wrote on Twitter: “Yall. Joel Osteen’s church didn’t lie about taking a PPP loan. Please read the article. Signed, The person who wrote the article #Lakewood.” However, his tweet only received 18 retweets, which is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of Twitter users who saw and retweeted the claims against Osteen.
According to ABC 13, throughout the pandemic, Lakewood Church has participated in Coronavirus relief efforts. In March, the church held a blood drive to collect blood for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center since most of the places the blood center accepts donations from were closed due to lockdowns.