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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. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    hindu impostor has as much right to be hindu secular, filthy crook to make up story and spread it to hind ,fool others, as much as Osteen from a poppet to hind fool naive in to hindu Mithra ism, racist savior ism of hindu dark ages, sold under new label Christianity. Way of hindu Pundits criminal crooks to run their business of hinduism corruption of truth absolute called religions.

    April 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • tas20036

      English isn't your first language, is it?

      April 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @tas ...it's an ignorant, racist, hateful troll-bot. Intelligence is not a requirement of it's programming.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  2. GianCarlo

    Christianity is about money. This man preaches wealth, and that being wealthy is not a sin. All this followers are really stupid or are driven to be wealthy like him some day. you'd be better off playing power ball.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Lisa

      At least with PowerBall there is evidence that people, you know, actually win. They have the nice cars and great houses to prove it. With Heaven, all you've got is stories coming from people who suffered traumatic injuries, severe enough to stop their hearts usually for quite some time thus depriving their brains of oxygen. Am I the only one who finds stories coming from people suffering from brain trauma, or from starvation in the desert for 40 odd days, or from dreams, or from inhaling the smoke from some burning bush somewhat suspect?

      April 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  3. churches

    it would be so much more interesting and exciting if he would renounce his faith.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • paulm5545

      That would be like Donald Trump renouncing capitalism. Too much money involved to renounce...

      April 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Larry

      Since both are entrepreneurs who have gotten rich from selling their respective products it would be a case of both renouncing greed, wouldn't it?

      April 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  4. Paul Wilson

    Joel Osteen to me is guilty of juddery. Juddery is claiming to be a OneTrueChurcher and yet preaching & practicing Jewish laws. Joel Osteen condemns the eating of pork, despite Mark 7 and Acts 15.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • G to the T

      Actually, many of the early pre-orothodox christian sects did just that. It was only after the influence of Paul that the jewish laws were considred to be redundant to and/or in conflict with faith in christ.

      Just sayin...

      April 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  5. curmudgeonette

    You dummies don't even know how to spell your pastor's name! That was the first tip of a false posting.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Larry

      From the disclaimer, it appears that they did that on purpose so that they could innocently claim that anyone taking their site as the actual one simply jumped to that conclusion.

      Maybe you didn't read the article?

      That would be kinda ironic.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  6. GAW

    You have to love the internet. It's a place where crazy rumors and ideas can get started and where there are more than enough people to believe them.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Larry

      The people who posted this site seemingly were counting on viewers taking things at face value, jumping to conclusions, and not fact checking. It seems painfully obvious that a lot of regular Osteen viewers fit into that category.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The bible is another place for crazy rumors that people are lining up to believe.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Larry

      Richard Cranium
      Well, yes. The Bible is another thing where claims appear in print that many people just accept on face value without doing any fact checking.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  7. Bob

    For those of you who are wise:

    Read John 3 (chapter 3 in the book of John). Read it slowly...read it more than once. Take a chance while you're reading it, and ask that God you say doesn't exist to speak to you. I dare you. What's wrong, are you afraid? If you won't/don't read it, then the question for you: What do you believe in? ? ? ?

    April 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • toadlife

      Yeah, I read it. Your point?

      April 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • tas20036

      I dared God to explain his message in firey letters across the sky. Hasn't happened yet. Your're point?

      April 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Merc

      What I believe in is none of your business. I only wish that you'd apply that same thinking to YOUR belief system.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I have bob...I have.
      I read every word in the bible with an open mind, and the first time I did, I was young and submitting to peer pressure. I wanted to believe, wanted to know what my friends knew and read every word. I found out that my friends deuded themselves and the bible is the work of men.

      Just as much happened to me when I read any other work of fiction.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      read it – "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

      LET's Religiosity Law #7 – If you think the bible is historical fact of the creation of the Universe, Earth or Mankind and believe without a doubt that some Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat of his flesh, drink of his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master; so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a sinful woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree! Then you are an award-winning retard.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • tas20036

      Actually Lucifer, are you sure Jesus was a zombie, and not a lich?

      April 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @tas – I stand corrected. By definition jesus might be considered a lich. However, one would have to positively identify him as an undead spellcaster, a wizard or sorcerer but sometimes a cleric or other spellcaster. hmmm...

      April 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • sam

      How slowly should it be read? And is it ok if I read it in William Shatner's voice in my head?

      ps I believe in only. One. Question. Mark. At. A. Time.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  8. shan22044

    That dude is looking more plastic every day. He's almost a Ken doll!

    April 9, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lisa

      He's got the same plastic face on while pitching a fast ball that he has on during his entire show, and any other time you see him. Con men smile a lot too.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  9. Clear and Present Thinker

    Translation: "I have faith that the money will keep coming in as long as the 'faithful' continue to rise to their levels of incompetence."

    April 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  10. don

    I have lost respect for most of these rich pastors. They are rich while most of the people that give them money every week struggle to pay bills. This man is living his heavenly life here on earth, period. He also says that all of the funds from the church stay in the church, but all of the funds from his books (which still came form the church), is ALL his. Well, you can't take that money to hell, can you?

    April 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Ima Mused

    How could he leave the faith? He never had it to begin with. Camel.....eye of a needle....sell all you have.... Yeah.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  12. Jessi Feliciano

    Listen all of You, You can be Rich do a lot of platic sugery with best beverly Hills doctors but none of You never had That prosper smile of christian like the blessed Joel Osteen, as long his keeping have faith in God he always be blessed what clean happy face. Loke those who are called super star and lie To the blinders like late Michael Jackson, Elizabeth taylor etc etc
    In stage they sing for the other side, when comes To take the prize on Stage they Thank god. Like the new age singers,
    The rappers they sing rabish with no maners and disrespect womans most of they lyrics. When Cames To grammy first of all let thank god came on people Wake up. One godbless us all

    April 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • JimTom

      Huh? English. Try again?

      April 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Your English needs some work... back to ESOL

      April 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • tas20036

      And that smile of his is creepy. I hope my face never looks like that televangelist.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @tas – that's the smile embalmers apply to the "faithful"

      April 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  13. albert

    Olsteen is not a Christian. Simply a business man steeling from blind sheep. After every one of his "shows" he does nothing but sell books, video's etc. If he were a true man of God, he wouldn't charge for it. It's al garbage anyway.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      Thank you very much for that great example of a "no true Scottsman" falacy.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Andrew

      That's the spirit! Keep it up now. We can do this.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Gabe Garfield

      This is no a "Scotsman" fallacy. Albert clearly defined that "no true Christian would do this" from the outset, which is logically valid. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

      April 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Creed

    Renounce the faith and give up all that money?? The cars?? The houses?? I have more faith in Brother Joel than to believe this kind of rumor about him. I know an April Fools joke when I see one.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  15. Walter Adams

    What? And give up show business? That would be heresy.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  16. Roman

    Why can't us freaks & norms just get along? You decide whether you are the freak or norm...

    April 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • tas20036

      I may be a freak, but I'm a freak who spends his money on himself, not some con artist who promises eternal salvation.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Cheers

      NORM ! ! !

      April 9, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Dr Haver

    For him, renouncing faith is the same as renouncing money. It won't happen. Anyone who smiles that much is clearly a con artist. When will we outgrow these people and just trust our instincts? I can guarantee that what you do for a living is much more impressive than this guy who's paid to produce "hot air." That is ALL it is.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  18. Andrew

    Let's rally on some ideas that Joel Osteen is a scamming millionare, he smiles too much, and oh, don't forget to add some hateful word about Christianity! This might be the ticket to feeling better about ourselves. C'mon guys, let's do it! And don't forget to add the Darwin fish bumper sticker to our cars. That'll show 'em.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ernie

      Joel Osteen is a d0u<hebag.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Andrew

      Nice work Ernie! Keep it coming Dr Haver! Now you've got it.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • sam

      Golly, Andrew, you're so swell!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • JohnnyB

      I really do not care that he is a millionaire.. its the fools and the weak minded that believe in this nonsense that should. They are lining the pockets of this clown in $100 bills all to hear about how a magic man living in the clouds needs you, your money and loves you.. such a crock. I'm still amazed people believe in and fall for this crap.. totally ridiculous..

      April 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  19. Miguel

    Imagine how excited the Democrats would be if the Pope renounced his faith.

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

      The Dems would have to hold their breath until they turned blue and collapsed. What is the worst thing a pope could do? Deny Christ. And yet St Peter, the first pope, did just that. (For the religiously challenged, he did this before the crucifixion and resurrection) A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If St Peter was the weakest link, than how strong the papacy must be ! Compared to that, the current Dem politicos are playing at it.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • mojo

      Huh? Dumbest post of the day/week.month.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Religious and political affiliation are two different things.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  20. heretic69

    Osteen is simply a huckster and a conman. They need to start taxing churches and all forms of "religulous" (thanks Bill) income, and start prosecuting people like this for RICO violations, much the way they did with psychics several years ago.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • counterww

      You are as kooky as Maher.

      Joel is a good guy, and you just don't like good guys.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Ernie

      Joel Osteen is a d0u<hebag.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • GonzoG

      Not gonna happen. People need their emotional crutch. Church makes little people happy and they come to work on Monday mostly sober. They look forward to a reward in Heaven and don't make waves for the guys taking their rewards NOW.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • JohnnyB

      I totally agree. They should be looking at churches like any other business out there. To not have to pay tax on anything because of a crazy fairy tale many believe in is total nonsense. I say tax the hell out of these clowns and make them pay their fair share !!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Alverant

      How is this tax cheat a "good guy"?

      April 9, 2013 at 3:31 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.