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April 9th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

Elaborate hoax: No, Joel Osteen has not renounced his faith

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Joel Osteen, the popular megachurch pastor from Houston, is the target of an Internet hoax that falsely reported the Christian leader was leaving his church and renouncing his faith.

On a website designed to mimic Osteen’s official website, the pranksters posted “A special message from Pastor Joel.” The post describes the Bible as “a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times” and announces that Osteen plans to leave his Lakewood Church.

Osteen and church staff  labeled the website a fraud and said the idea that he was leaving the faith was a "false rumor."

According to the website's registration, Lucas Skass with BMG Enterprises LLC, who lists his residence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, purchased the domain name on April 1 of this year – April Fools Day.

Calls to the number listed for Skass, as well as people associated with BMG Enterprises LLC, have gone unanswered.

"I am leaving the Christian faith," says a big banner near the top of the page.

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In addition to the announcement, the website posted a fake screenshot of CNN.com that included a falsified headline about Osteen’s supposed decision. The pranksters also launched an associated Twitter account that has since been suspended.

The website http://www.joelostenministries.com/ spells Osteen’s name wrong and comes with an elaborate disclaimer.

“This site is the property of Pastor Joel Osten and Joel Osten Ministries. It bears no relation to ‘Joel Osteen’ or ‘Lakewood Church,’" the disclaimer reads. “Any implication or relation to 'Joel Osteen' and the 'Lakewood Church' is purely coincidental. 'Joel Osteen' is not in any way involved or related to this site and references to 'Joel Osteen' are, again, entirely coincidental.”

In an interview with ABC News, Osteen dismissed the prank.

“You know, I’m really not angry. I don’t feel like a victim,” Osteen said. “I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down.”

He continued: “You can’t stop everything from happening, but you can choose to say, ‘God, it’s in your hands.’ I’m going to move forward. I’m going stay full of joy and I’m going to enjoy this day.”

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Though Osteen dismissed the hoax, many on Twitter fell for it and were shocked by the announcement.

When one person on Twitter asked Osteen directly whether he was leaving the church, someone managing Osteen’s Twitter account responded by knocking down the false report.

Osteen has led the 45,000-person church since 1999, after his father, the founder of Lakewood Church, stepped down. He is one of the most recognizable faces in American Christianity and his ministry says Osteen’s sermons reach some 10 million people a week in over 100 countries.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Pastors

soundoff (1,629 Responses)
  1. Saveme

    Religion is the biggest scam in the history of mankind.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, the biggest one is "Everything is ok, trust me."

      April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Common Wisdom circa 1450

      I think the biggest scam is this earth sphere theory, I mean everybody who's anybody know's the earth is flat and the ocean fall off into the ether so there is no point in sailing to the west and certainly no chance i'm going to invest in a ship that's never going to come back...

      April 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Shadow

    Mr. Osteen will have his day in the Great Court of Heaven for deny Jesus as the Only Way to the Father!!

    April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Thanks Random capitalization Guy.

      Pretty sure there is no Court meNtioned in the bIbLe.

      He profeSses to spew his Version of faith, sine there are 40,000 verSions of your faith, who Are you to say he is Wrong?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @RC,

      acknowledging the premise of your argument, Pastor Joe's "prosperity gospel" is even easier to repudiate than the others, given that it contradicts Jesus' words even as defined by the canon used by Lakewood Church itself.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Jonathan

    why would Osteen leave a cash cow like Christianity?

    April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If it's such a cash cow, which you obviously worship the question should be "Why aren't you in it?"

      April 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Paul

      Bill, not everyone wants to be a dirt bag for a living.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

      Paul

      Bill, not everyone wants to be a dirt bag for a living.
      .
      or support the Kaaaaaaatholic Church

      April 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "If it's such a cash cow, which you obviously worship the question should be 'Why aren't you in it?'"
      - WOW if that doesn't show the truth about Xtians. I don't know what does -
      BECAUSE unlike your fellow Christians ... I, as an atheist, actually have morals. I don't like lying to my fellow man.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Aerosgrl

    Yeah right why would he leave his church... that would mean ALL HIS INCOME TOO!!
    Joel Osteen over priced motivational speaker!! But it’s the poor fools out there that keep going and contributing money to him. Go out and be a servant to others in need, quit giving this man money!!

    April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Rocket

    Wow! The athiest must be bored. Had to do something else besides complain and whine about Christianity I guess.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yeah, like we complained and whined about bigotry, racism, fascism and all the other intolerant ideologies

      We waste SOOO much time pursuing justice when we could be listening to Gospel and raising cash to pay off the kids your pastors have buggered.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • TheObserver

      If you are actually trying to promote and endorse Christianity, insulting and generalizing about the people you are "called to love as your neighbor" doesn't do a whole lot to advertise your cause.

      However, nobody is all that surprised to hear your sentiments, because American Evangelical (and plenty other) Christians are a particularly hostile, bigoted, unkind, uncharitable, cold, insensitive, defensive, and narrow-minded sub-sect of Christians and become more like this every year.

      So Christians, you're able to justify every other atrocity your religion has committed, so why worry? Why not just say what you feel? Why don't you just become the mouthpiece for all the cult.... er.... I mean mega-church followers? Why don't you just say that gay people are all going to hell? It's what you believe right? Why don't you have a 4th Crusade in America and kill off all the non-believers? Why not, your beloved GOP already got that ball rolling in the Middle East, lets keep it going! Let's kill off all those pesky religious minorities, and ethnic money-suckers and set this world straight!

      Food for thought.... American Christians and the Taliban. Very different right? Right?..... Anyone?....Bueller?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  6. Dr. Fricke

    Joel Osteen can't leave something he has never professed. The "prosperity gospel" he upholds denies the truth of the faith.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      What "truth" is that?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  7. Kev

    ....and the pastor then wrote on his blog: "The rumors are false! I am making too much damn money to leave the church. What am I, out of my freeeeakin mind?"

    April 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  8. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    There is no such thing as bad publicity!

    Brinks driver: Where do you want me to put your next delivery Mr. Osteen?

    April 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      This was a brilliant move on his part. Attack himself and then look like the victim for all the sympathy checks people will send in to support his not losing his faith...

      April 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  9. William Demuth

    Does anyone find this particualr guy as plastic and artificial as I do

    Some preachers have the air of believability to them, but this guy is OBVIOUSLY nothing more than a charlatan

    Even seeing him for a few seconds fills me with a gut twisting distrust

    Frankly, I percieve him as a liar and a con man and nothing more.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      he seems more sincere than mike murdoch or benny hinn

      April 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The credibility acid test:

      Q: Would you purchase a used car, life insurance, or a vacation time share from Joel Osteen?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @sam stone,

      he's cleverer than people like Benny Hinn.

      He has realized that you don't need healing gimmicks or judgmental hellfire sermons to attract people who want to believe in something.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I only saw Hinn once, and in the back of my mind I kept hearing the Benny Hill Theme Song

      Hard to see him as scary after that

      April 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      murdoch is a creep, but i suppose he is a free market success. getting desperate people who need money to send you their money

      April 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Gandolph The Lundren

    Rodrigo is not going to be pleased with this news.I'm going to speak with Guiterrez and Jiminez about what's happened and see what information they might have to share in retort.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  11. HotAirAce

    Looks like they got everything right about religion: "The post describes the Bible as “a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times""

    April 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  12. God Exists (don't let science limit your understanding)

    There is no way that he would renounce his "faith". He is making too much money by fooling people into believing his shtick.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • RR

      That's pretty much exactly what I was going to write

      April 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Avishek

      Well regarding money........People don't want god....they want a good wife, good job.............the real preaching is just to love god without any expectation in return........well....he is telling people what they want to hear...................

      April 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      What people want is peace of mind and some are unable to have that unless they think they know why and how we got here. Because of this mankind has been hypothesising about it for millennia and violently attacking those who disagree with their invented conclusions, all for a little peace of mind, for as they say, ignorance is bliss...

      April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • bEV

      you need to get your facts straight he takes no money from the church he gets his money from the books he has wrote which he deserves

      April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      "he gets his money from the books he has wrote which he deserves"

      There wouldn't happen to be one of his books under almost every parishioners seat now would there?...

      April 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @beV,

      you're saying that none of those 18,000 good t-ithing christiansgive to the Lakewood Church every week?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  13. palintwit

    You know you're one of Sarah Palin's tea party patriots if your teenage daughter becomes pregnant but you're not upset because, afterall, you're the baby daddy.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  14. HamsterDancer

    I know its "atheistic cool" to chew up any and all televangelists in anonymous internet comments. But I've seen his broadcasts and he never has an unkind word to say about anybody or anything. His half hour show is pretty much a nice positive thinking pep talk the God loves you, wants the best for you and you were made to be excellent and don't sell yourself short. He never says any group or individual are evil or says anything about fire and brimstone to scare people.
    And more importantly he NEVER asks for money in the broadcast. He never asks for money for prayer requests or says you have to join his church and start sending money to it in order to be saved. As huge as the crowd is in the telecasts he obviously gets alot of money for his church from its regular members.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      thanks Buzz Killingston

      April 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      He is being paid to be nice and say nice things.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      I totally agree! Joel Osteen is the greatest, purest most genuine sincere pastor in U.S. history and perhsps the world. I've heard his sermons before and he's truly a gift from God. He's the greatest! Amen!

      April 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Aerosgrl

      Well some how he has to pay for the sport complex he turned into the "church". Seats 16,800! 6 services... that can add up to a lot of dough real quick!

      April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Are you a motivational speaker?

      Are you tired of the corporate sales conference circuit?

      Are you fed up with paying taxes on your speaking fees?

      -----

      Then do what I do, start preaching the "prosperity gospel" in a surplus stadium. It's just like motivational speaking only the audiences are bigger, no egotistical CEOs to tell you what you can and can't say and best of all there's no taxes to pay.

      Be like me, Joel Osteen and live the dream.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Red Dwarf

      Yeah yeah, he's a more religious Tony Robins. Boosts your self confidence and helps you focus your energy to accomplish your goals. But if Tony Robins can do it without God and get's the same results, why add an invented deity to the mix? Ohhhhh, branding.... I forgot this is a franchise deal...

      Fact: You do not need God to quit drinking regardless of what AA tries to convince you.
      Fact: You do not need God to feel empowered and take control of your own life and actions.
      Fact: You do not need God to take responsibility for your own life and actions.
      Fact: You do not need God to be good to others and show compassion to your fellow humans.
      Fact: You do not need God to show love, forgiveness and empathy.
      Fact: You do not need Satan to blame for the things that go wrong in life.

      Only sick perverts with no self control would need God or Joel Osteen looking over their shoulders so they behave. And even more sick are those that need to be bribed with promises of heavenly rewards to illicit good behavior.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "And more importantly he NEVER asks for money "
      Which begs the question - Why does he accept it ?

      April 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  15. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    LET's Religiosity Law #10 – If you believe any of the christian ass-clowns on television are “helping” you get closer to Jesus and not doing it to get your money, but also have the capacity to be shocked when their misdeeds eventually come to light… well, you are an imbecile. This law is immutable.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • may40

      if you think your Dem politicians are for the people and aren't for the rich fat cats you're a fool. Also, most of your liberal friends are extremely wealthy.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      What makes you think i'm a Democrat?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Lucifer

      Cause Fundies believe Republican means Christian and Christian means Republican

      They were raised where Church and State are one and the same.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      He's changing lives world wide for the better. He's helping troubled people see the light and helping them to do good deeds and to respect and love thy fellow men. And he doesn't ask for a dime. Is Mr. Osteen perfect? Well, no man on earth is perfect but what he is doing for humankind is near perfect to what God would want his deciples to do. Its easy to jude and criticize but before you attack and criticize Mr. Osteen, just ask what are you doing to help make this world a better world.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @William – yeah, I know... but to set the record straight... I am a "freethought" Libertarian

      April 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Aerosgrl

      @ Blah Blah: I don’t believe in Mega-Churches! I believe that those who are contributing to the enormous amount of money it takes to run these “churches” (bills, pay checks, air time have to be paid) would be much better spent serving the actual community.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  16. Only one thing worse.

    A smart and experienced beverage connoisseur knows to grip the chalice in three places. NO no tears for spilling or breaking or shaking. There is but only one small channel though which we can navigate. Fortunately, we are very small indeed.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Joan

      Yeah, I thought you were very small too.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Only one thing worse.

      Joan, you are burdened. Be that escape thread and be small. Look for joy!

      April 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Joan

      Uh, that was kind of your problem. You were too small to cause joy.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Hotdog down a Hallway

      :)

      April 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  17. Joel OilSheen

    I have a special baseball pitch of my own, and it's called the slimeball.

    It's named for the sales pitches that I've been using for years to get MONEY from all you stupid deluded sheeple. Thanks for the MONEY. Now I can buy even more grease for my hair.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • sunnyjim

      Its not wise to be a mocker

      April 9, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • sam stone

      why not, sunnyjim?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  18. Joel OilSheen

    I am so blessed to take all your hard earned MONEY to pay for more grease to slick my hair with. I like MONEY and I'm super slimy and oily.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  19. Joel OilSheen

    Nor have I renounced my greasy hair. I have more oil in it than in Texas.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      You're a disgraceful fool for mocking Mr. Osteen. I guess you're perfect? Mr. Osteen has spent most of his life doing kind and good deeds, helping people rebound from despair, grief and sin. He has spent decades helping people to rediscover their faith and to get their lives back in order, to love their fellow men and their love ones in times when many peoples' lives were lost in despair. So what are you doing to help make the world a better place? You sir should be ashmed of yourself.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Joel OilSheen

      I am so blessed to take all your hard earned MONEY to pay for more grease to slick my hair with. I like MONEY and I'm super slimy and oily.

      April 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  20. Universe

    Verses regarding Mary in Quran (Islamic Scripture)

    “Mention in the scripture Mary. She isolated herself from her family, into an eastern location.” [19:16]

    “While a barrier separated her from them, we sent to her our Spirit. He went to her in the form of a human being.”

    She said, "I seek refuge in the Most Gracious, that you may be righteous."

    He said, "I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son."

    She said, "How can I have a son, when no man has touched me; I have never been unchaste."

    He said, "Thus said your Lord, `It is easy for Me. We will render him a sign for the people, and mercy from us. This is a predestined matter.' "

    When she bore him, she isolated herself to a faraway place.

    The birth process came to her by the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "(I am so ashamed;) I wish I were dead before this happened, and completely forgotten."

    (The infant) called her from beneath her, saying, "Do not grieve. Your Lord has provided you with a stream.

    "If you shake the trunk of this palm tree, it will drop ripe dates for you.*

    "Eat and drink, and be happy. When you see anyone, say, `I have made a vow of silence, [to the Most Gracious]*; I am not talking today to anyone.' "

    She came to her family, carrying him. They said, "O Mary, you have committed something that is totally unexpected.

    "O descendant of Aaron, your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother unchaste."

    She pointed to him. They said, "How can we talk with an infant in the crib?"

    (The infant spoke and) said, "I am a servant of God. He has given me the scripture, and has appointed me a prophet.

    "He made me blessed wherever I go, and enjoined me to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and the obligatory charity (Zakat) for as long as I live.

    "I am to honor my mother; He did not make me a disobedient rebel.

    "And peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I get resurrected."

    “That was Jesus, the son of Mary, and this is the truth of this matter, about which they continue to doubt.”

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.”

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    April 9, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Joel OilSheen

      The A-rab islamists used to have all the petroleum but now I have more oil in my hair.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      religious vermin

      April 9, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Pathetic post from the fictional work known as the quran.

      April 9, 2013 at 11:42 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.