In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, Lakewood — whose pastor Osteen is reportedly worth $50 million — defended its decision to seek support from the Paycheck Protection Program and insisted neither Osteen nor his wife received any of the money.
“Like many organizations temporarily shuttered by the pandemic, this loan provided Lakewood Church short-term financial assistance in 2020 ensuring that its approximately 350 employees and their families would continue to receive a paycheck and full health care benefits,” a church rep told the paper Friday.
The church’s PPP payments came under scrutiny last December. Lakewood — the nation’s largest megachurch — has 368 full-time and part-time employees.
At least 60 religious institutions in Texas received PPP loans, the Chronicle said. Hundreds more across the country also received COVID-19 relief funding.
The large payouts were criticized by some civil libertarians who believe churches should operate entirely financially separate from any government programs.
Lakewood officials have said the organization lost revenue as a result of shutting down in-person service amid COVID-19.
Osteen, a televangelist and New York Times best-selling author, reportedly bought his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini and lives in a $15 million mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood.