A Houston megachurch, whose movie star pastor is reportedly really worth $50 million, has repaid the federal government $4.4 million in pandemic loans after heading viral for the outrageous handout.
Lakewood Church, which is tax-exempt like most spiritual establishments, took $4.4 million in taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Plan loans at the height of the COVID pandemic last year—all whilst senior pastor Joel Osteen flaunted his crazy prosperity. It induced “Osteen” and “Ferrari” to development on social media as observers questioned the institution’s want for these types of a large payout.
Osteen reportedly owns a $300,000 Ferrari and a $10.5 million mansion, and has been photographed touring in type on a luxurious jet. Meanwhile, he has produced appearances on the Right now Present, urging folks to not “focus on what [they] have or really don’t have.”
Lakewood, considered to be the major church in the U.S. with an regular weekly attendance of 45,000, shut down in-person products and services past year and informed the Houston Enterprise Journal they experienced to go months with no the “ability to obtain significant donations.”
They insisted none of the PPP dollars went to Osteen or his wife, the two of whom allegedly do not get a salary from the church, and named the personal loan vital “during this kind of a time of need.” The revenue furnished the church with “short-term money assistance” to ensure their 368 workforce would “continue to obtain a paycheck and entire wellness treatment rewards,” a church spokesperson mentioned.
Thousands of other spiritual institutions been given up to $7.8 billion in PPP loans, in accordance to some tallies.
On Friday, a Lakewood spokesperson provided financial institution statements to the Houston Chronicle showing that the church had totally repaid the financial loan. PPP financial loans had been 100 % forgivable if a firm retained all its personnel at the similar fork out amount, and if the revenue was spent on payroll and other eligible expenditures.
The spokesperson did not say why the church repaid the mortgage even so other huge corporations like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers returned their financial loans after becoming greatly criticized.
Rob Boston, senior adviser of Americans United for Separation of Church and Condition, informed the Houston Chronicle that Osteen was “rightfully” criticized for getting the personal loan.
But the much larger challenge, he reported, was that “religious independence is a main assure of our Structure, and that usually means that no one particular should be compelled to shell out for someone else’s spiritual beliefs or tactics.”
It is not the initial time Osteen and Lakewood Church have been shamed into action. In 2017, the church refused to open its stadium up for Hurricane Harvey victims but finally did following a firestorm on social media.
Osteen has also attracted criticism from some other spiritual leaders for his espousal of the so-referred to as prosperity gospel, which teaches that prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing on a individual.