Houston Pastor responds to Harvey criticism: ‘We have never closed our doors’ [Updated]

Lakewood Church received backlash as people claimed its leader refused to help flood victims by using the building as a shelter. So far, the church’s response hasn’t stopped the PR heat.

Image by Robert M Worsham via / CC BY-SA 4.0

Brand managers and politicians have found themselves the subject of online ire after crises hit, but now a church and its pastor are facing similar backlash.

Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch that pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen calls home, responded this week to accusations that it closed its doors to Hurricane Harvey flood victims.

The trouble started when the church, which boasts a capacity of around 16,000, posted this message to its Facebook page:

Even though the church said it was “inaccessible due to severe flooding,” that didn’t stop many from criticizing the organization and its pastor:

Osteen has remained active on social media throughout Hurricane Harvey, and his church set up an area on its website to take donations to “help us help Houston”:


Criticism grew after sports analyst Sean Salisbury went to Lakewood Church and took a video showing no signs of flood damage:

The outcry caused Osteen to issue a public statement:

We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.

Blogger Lynne Gabriel tweeted a news article that reported the church did take on some water:

However, Snopes questioned whether those photos were actually taken of Lakewood Church, or whether they were snapped “near” it.

Osteen’s explanation and promise to open the doors once shelters “reach capacity”—along with pictures that showed flooding potentially on the church’s premises didn’t do much to quell the criticism:

How would you advise Osteen and the church to proceed from here, PR Daily readers?


Osteen has since responded to the backlash, and is opening his church’s doors to those that need shelter:



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