Celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church succumbed to pressure and will repay $4.4 million in COVID-19 disaster loans for small businesses, according to a new report.
In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, Lakewood — whose Pastor Osteen is reportedly worth $50 million — defended his decision to seek support from the Paycheck Protection Program, insisting that neither Osteen nor his wife should be paid any money. got money.
A church representative told the newspaper: “Like many organizations temporarily shut down by the pandemic, this loan provided Lakewood Church with short-term financial support in 2020 to ensure that its approximately 350 employees and their families are paid and full. Health care benefits will continue to accrue.” Friday.
Church’s PPP payments came under scrutiny last December. Lakewood – the largest megachurch in the country – has 368 full-time and part-time employees.
The Chronicle said that at least 60 religious institutions in Texas received PPP loans. Hundreds more people across the country also received COVID-19 relief funds.
The large payout was criticized by some civil libertarians, who believe that churches should operate completely financially separate from any government programs.
Lakewood officials have said the organization suffered a loss of revenue as a result of the shutdown of in-person service amid COVID-19.
Osteen, a televangelist and New York Times best-selling author, reportedly bought his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini and lives in a $15 million mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood.