Prosperity Gospel Fail: Joel Osteen Is Giving Back $4.4 Million In PPP Loans
Prosperity Gospel preacher Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church caused no small amount of scandal last year when the megachurch received one of the largest and most notorious PPP loans — $4.4 million — while thousands of actual small businesses not run by evangelists worth over $100 million didn't get much or didn't get anything at all.
The church is now paying that loan back, and probably not out of the goodness of Joel Osteen's heart. PPP loans were and are forgiven if the business using them actually used them to cover people's paychecks, the rent or mortgage, and other approved expenses. (Wonkette received a PPP loan.)
Part of the controversy surrounding the loans also had to do with the fact that the loans are forgivable, meaning that if they had followed the rules and only spent it on things it was supposed to be spent on, it would have meant the government was just straight up giving money to a church. Churches are not taxed and there is supposed to be a wall between church and state in this country, so that's not a great look!
Rob Boston, senior adviser for the Washington, based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he was pleased Osteen is repaying the loan, for which Boston said Osteen was "rightfully" criticized.
"But there's a larger issue here," he said. "Religious freedom is a core promise of our Constitution, and that means that no one should be forced to pay for someone else's religious beliefs or practices Historically, the practice in the United States has been for congregations to support houses of worship and not rely on taxpayer money - and to be free from the inevitable entangling forms of oversight that brings."
His group is among many who've called for more oversight of PPP loans, particularly those received by religious groups. They point to cases such as that of Daystar Television Network, a massive Christian broadcaster based in Dallas which said last year it was $3.9 million PPP loan following questions about whether some of it was used to purchase a luxury Gulfstream jet.
From what I understand, the way "Prosperity Theology" works is that you give all of your money and social security checks to the sketchiest evangelist you can find, and then God is so excited that you helped said evangelist buy a luxury jet or buy a fleet of private jets (for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, obviously) that He or She then showers you in money and success. And if that doesn't happen, it is probably because God doesn't like you.
Given that the United States of America did not immediately become fabulously wealthy upon giving $4.4 million to Osteen's church, that either says something damning about America, or about Joel Osteen and prosperity theology in general, and I think it's probably safe to say it's the latter.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse