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Joel Osteen opens church to storm victims after social media outrage

31 August 2017

After a torrent of social media shaming, Houston-based preacher Joel Osteen is finally allowing Hurricane Harvey victims to seek refuge in his mega-church.

Lakewood opened to the public Tuesday had has since taken in "hundreds" of Harvey evacuees and donations, the pastor said.

Through the church's Facebook account, a message was posted that said Lakewood Church was inaccessible because of the severe flooding in Houston. Some residents posted photos of certain areas around the Lakewood Church to disprove the megachurch's claim that it was impassable to those who might want to seek shelter from the storm.

So, what's with all the photos of the flooding that appears on the "lower level" of the church?

According to TMZ, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas was fully accessible during Harvey - and Osteen opted to lock the doors to his megachurch at the same time a neighboring hotel not only stayed open, but filled to capacity. Osteen said the church's record stands for itself, stating, "We've been here year after year helping the community, helping the poor...rebuilding the roof of someone from Katrina just last week".

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"So there was a safety issue the first day or two", Osteen told Cuomo. "If we didn't have our flood gates out back here, it was within one foot. We will continue to be a distribution center for those in need", he said in a statement to ABC News. Osteen leads Lakewood Church in Houston, one of the largest congregations in the country - so big, its home used to be an National Basketball Association arena.

"Shame on you Joel, help out your fellow man, open the church to the needy", one critic tweeted.

However, people took to social media to criticise the church and shared pictures instead of the area surrounding the church with streets that were accessible.

But Lakewood Church spokesman Don Iloff told the Washington Post that the building was flooded and the water was close to spilling over the building's floodgate, so allowing people into the building would not have been safe. To add to that statement, Iloff also stated that Lakewood Church has already receded. The storm is responsible for at least 11 deaths, all in Texas, over the past four days.

Joel Osteen opens church to storm victims after social media outrage