April 9th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

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

By Dan Merica, CNN
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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. jayman112

    Doesn't one have to first be a Christian before renouncing Christianity?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |

    From beyond the rivers of ETHIOPIA ,my suppliants ,even the daughter of my disperse shall bring mine offering.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • sam


      April 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  3. dave

    Honestly, I think it would do more good for Christianity than harm if he did renounce his faith (or admitted he never had it). What he teaches is hardly Christianity but rather, how to use God to get nice things for yourself.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • SeattleCatholic

      That seems to be the case doesn't it? Not that I should judge someone from afar, never met the man. But somehow his message of if you believe in God he will reward you with earthly wealth just rubs me the wrong way. I prefer the message of the meek shall inherit the earth, but I'm wondering exactly when God is going to make that happen : ) Saludos

      April 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Isn't that the basis of your religion...believe and you will be rewarded, don't and you will be punished....I don't see the difference.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      i agree with richard. it seems that way to me, too

      April 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Now

      @ Richard Cranium – "believe and you will be rewarded, don't and you will be punished"

      No, that is a poor understanding of Christian theology. Some do preach that. But God is not a genie – we don't say the magic words and he grants us our wishes.

      Being a Christian is more about carrying out God's will for us. To serve and help those in need.

      We need to do more than just be proud of what we believe and post about it on a message board. Let the atheists do that.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I am an athesit and donate a great deal of my time to help those in need. My christian friends say that I am the most "christian" among them, the most generous to strangers and the one who practices most what I preach. I do AV work on the side and often work in various churches video taping various events, and it always surprises me the level of respect (actually lack thereof) shown by the "faithful".

      If you really believe what you say about atheists, you do not know very many atheists.

      Believe in jesus or you will be tortured for eternity...that is one of the basic tenets of the faith. To deny that is to deny one of the most basic reasons to believe.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Now

      "Believe in jesus or you will be tortured for eternity..."

      Where does it say that?

      April 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • bitty

      The God as ATM machine philosophy

      April 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  4. It just gets worse.

    There is no scam of any nature on this planet as perfect as religion. All reward and punishment, hope and fear is built in. You simply cannot lose (or win).

    April 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  5. virtulady07

    You really have to be so CAREFUL, at what you believe. Your life may depend on it. Don't let what someone else believes confuse you about the REALITY of CHRIST. READ the book for yourself!

    April 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • It just gets worse.

      The Bible? LOL

      April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      And here comes the proxy threat again...you could have gone and just restated Pascals Wager agian.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  6. God

    Make an effort to say kind things about one another.
    You might be surprised at how it can change your life.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jesus

      It's a tough audience Dad.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      For best results, I've found leaving you two out of it goes a much longer way.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Gandolph The Lundren

      For the best results, I've found leaving you two out of it goes a much longer way.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • God

      Guess that depends on where you're headed Gandolph.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  7. Gods'girl4eva

    No one who is a real christian would believe that. Once anyone has a relationship with Jesus Christ, its impossible to say Christianity is not real.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Josef F

      Because they're so efficiently brainwashed?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      How do you have a relationship with a myth? Even if god exists, a relationship is not a one sided thing. I can say I have a relationship with Uma Thurman, but if she never responds in any perceivable way is there any relationship?

      April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      -define "real christian" ... this should be good for a laugh

      April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Once anyone has a relationship with Jesus Christ, its impossible to say Christianity is not real.'

      pick a cult, any cult, and the followers will say the same thing.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  8. TiredODaCrap

    Good to see all of the educated, evolved, kind, and tolerent folks out hating on religion again. Reminds me that I'm on CNN.com again...

    April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Educated and evolved, yes. Kind and tolerant? Well that's a horse of a different color. Those are subjective and based totally on whether or not you believe that someone voicing their opinion on religion is being "intolerant" and/or "kind".

      But sure, feel persecuted, you're in good company, there are a lot of people who suffer from the same complex on this blog.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Good to see all of the uneducated, unevolved, unkind, and intolerent christians out hating on no religion again. Reminds me that I'm on CNN.com again...

      April 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  9. wellwell

    Pepole....Why would he leave such a lucrative business

    April 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  10. rolandtarley1

    It's always funny when believers are not distinguishing truth from near truth. It's the case of Mr. Osteen. Mr. Osteen is a motivational speaker whose job is to ignite people to obtain material possession of the world. And motivational speakers are not real Christians, they are the wolves clothed in sheep fur trying to divert the whole meaning in Christianity.
    I remembered sometimes ago when Mr. Osteen was invited on CNN to discuss his faith. He plainly denied that Jesus Christ was not the only way to God or Heaven. It was on that very day that the credibility I had in Osteen evaporated completely. And I started to dig up the type of Christian he is and to my amazement, he was found to be a motivational speaker, which is very, very far from being a Christian.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Aerosgrl

      Call it a church to get your Tax breaks!

      April 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Thack hare

      False dichotomy. One can be a motivational speaker for a living and still believe in a Jesus Christ for his salvation. Try not to be so illogical and maybe people will pay more attention

      April 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bails

      Had Mr. Osteen said he believes so and so will go to heaven or hell, THEN he would have been judgemental. I totally agree with his words, and I consider myself a born again Christian. But it is up to God, in the final judgement. NO MAN can say what is in another man's heart, whether he be Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic. That is what Mr. Osteen meant.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      So you said Mr. Osteen is just a motivational speaker and not a real christian? Really? Well, I beg to disagree with you because he seems to have a better understanding of the scriptures than most of the evangelical jokesters we have out there. Yes, he's a good "motivational speaker" but he also seems to have a better understand of the bible than most of the pastors out there. And if motivating people to love, care, respect, trust honor, worship and read the scripture is a good thing, then he's surely doing a heck of a job at it and he's truly the best the world have ever seen in the modern era.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  11. sam

    So a scammer got scammed?

    April 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  12. Norm

    Look at all the devil worshipers here hating on Joel
    He must be doing something right.
    "Onward Christian soldier"....

    April 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • sam

      Tell us, Norm, is everyone who disagrees with your worldview a 'devil worshipper'?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Chihova


      April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I haven't seen any devil worshippers here...which ones are they?

      And by the way...If someone chooses to believe in the devil as their religion, who are you to judge?
      The devil was allegedly a creation of your alleged god...so anything that the devil does is the responsibility of the god that created him...right?

      April 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • sam

      OH NOES TEH DEVIL!!!1!! C'mon, Norm.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      you do know that people that dont believe in god also therefore dont believe in the devil right?
      bit hard to worship something you dont think exists.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Devil worshippers", Normie?

      April 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • KnowYourOwnBook

      Love thy neighbor...

      April 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Johnny 5


    April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Michael

    Osteen is a HUGE prissy closet case Nelly queen whose only purpose for God is to make money.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  15. John

    This guy is one dam good scam artist. Cant believe fools follow this idiot and give him money. What a bunch of morons.
    Feel free to send me your money and I will be more than happy to lie and tell you that you are going to heaven. Idiots

    April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  16. FrankinSD

    That should have been a very hard hoax to sell. Nobody renounces something that makes them that rich.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  17. clarity

    Of course Joel would never be allowed to play the real game. The umpire would call him out just for having the ball that close to his greasy head.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  18. Osama

    Why so much hate for a man who leads so many people to church? I have heard many of his sermons on Youtube and the man seems very kind and sincere. I think people are hating on him because he doesnt hate on Muslims like the Haggee father and son clowns!

    April 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      It is not necessarily hate, but this guy is the ultimate used car salesman for god....creepy, smarmy, and insincere.

      April 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  19. sybaris

    religion is nothing but a filthy perverted disease of the mind

    April 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    Elaborate Hoax: No, Joel Osteen Hasn't Started Thinking for Himself

    April 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
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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.