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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. bczu

    Why would he leave? Hes making waaaay too much money

    April 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  2. Colin Morgan

    Why would he leave the church? It's a well paying job.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  3. Sonny

    People are crazy. Listen folks there are no Gods. Are you schizophdenic and hallucinating?

    April 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • pastapharian

      It's ok to talk to imaginary zombies as long as you give them a mexican name – like jesus.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Insanity is believing that your hallucinations are real.
      Religion is believing that other people's hallucinations are real.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  4. sandcanyongal

    If this preacher isn't spreading the word for population control, abortion and birth control send the charleton on his way.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Have you thought about joining VHEMT?
      The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
      "May we live long and die out".

      April 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  5. rad666

    Selling faith is profitable.

    Up side is there are no returns after believers die.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • pastapharian

      and no tax returns while the sellers live!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  6. Doc Vestibule

    Any shaman who tries to earn a profit selling salvation is a con man.
    God's message is free. (whether it is true is a whole other subject)

    April 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • pastapharian

      well said, sir!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Bob

    Osteen isn't a Christian or a minister. He's just a motivational speaker.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • i9

      Looks like he hasn't motivated you.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Alverant

      How can you say he's not christian? He says he is. He acts like he is. That's good enough for me.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  8. jon

    This smiling goofball needs to just go away. I am sick and tired of looking at his teeth. So, unless he gets into a toothpaste commercial, just leave.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  9. ME II

    Marketing?
    Didn't he just put out a new book?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  10. wade moran

    Oh those lefties: How they love to lie and hate. God bless 'em

    April 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • louisianamatt

      I'm no lefty, live in smack fab in the center of the Bible Belt. I just get to see the many, many, many churches in impoverished areas that do nothing for the community but provide an upgrade to the pastor's car and/or clothing. Signed, -Former Catholic-

      April 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Alverant

      Awww what's the matter? Can't take a joke?

      If you want to see people who love to lie and hate, look to the conservative christians of America.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Oh those lefties: How they love to lie and hate'

      Oh the irony of a sweeping generalization about who lies and hates.

      April 9, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • LeftyLiar

      @Wade

      How's Martha?

      April 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  11. Bob

    He's not a real Christian anyway with his health and wealth gospel crap. His message is simply God loves you and wants you to be healthy and have lots of money.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  12. Kilto

    Pastor Joel Osteen is a man of God. God bless him and his family. I hope he continues to do what he's doing and continue to be blessed indeed. Haters going to hate!!!

    April 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bob

      Too bad there's no evidence that god exists.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Billy

      where is hate, Kilto? Is that another name for hell?

      April 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Joe

      Bob, let me guess, you read that on the Internet!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Alverant

      If God is real then why hasn't he healed amputees? People credit the power of God of healing other things but if you loose a limb, God's not helping you.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  13. James

    Why would he? He's making too much money from the suckers that follow him...

    April 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  14. WMesser58

    The only shock is anyone cares!!!!!!

    April 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • gharode

      well said 🙂

      April 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  15. louisianamatt

    He feels "too blessed" because the insane amounts of money he makes by swindling people to donate money to his "church" or cause. Isn't it time we start taxing churches as they are clearly for-profit, as in the preachers are the ones who are profiting, not the community.

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

      From your mouth to god's ears!

      April 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • pawanmit

      I think you got it the other way around. He makes money coz he feels blessed. He doesn't feel blessed because he makes a tonne of money. If there was a direct correlation between being rich and feeling blessed than no rich person will ever feel miserable or depressed and commit suicide. But sad to say that is not the case.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  16. palintwit

    Osteen and Marcus Bachmann have a plan to pray away all the gay. And it won't cost too much.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  17. pastapharian

    Man created god in his image – not the other way around. Olsteen is just more proof of that fact.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  18. Reality

    Osteen has been promulgating the Christian hoax/con for how many years now? Time for him to get a real job.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  19. RCL

    That guy is a joke!

    April 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  20. Dan

    If it was true, he wouldn't be the first, and he definitely wouldn't be the last.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Lagos

      Correct. I'm not quite sure what point you're trying to get across though. That people leave religion behind all the time? The converse is true too. Unless you like making a habit of making asinine statements like "THE GRASS IS GREEN" or "CAR ACCIDENTS ARE BAD" without tying it into a larger statement, really not sure what you're trying to do here.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Dan

      Don't look too deep into it. Just making the point that it shouldn't be a surprise, people leave the church all the time, to include church leaders.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • pawanmit

      Thank God for that! World need people like Pastor Osteen to spread the message of joy, faith and hopefulness more than ever. I am not a christian, but has been helped by Pastor Osteen's words and has seen my life turn around. I live a happy and content life which only seems to get better each day.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • sam

      @pawanmit – how long have you been working for Mr Osteen?

      April 9, 2013 at 3:12 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.