Osteen was quickly dragged on social media for not opening the doors of his Houston megachurch to Hurricane Harvey victims seeking shelter. With an estimated net worth of $40 million, critics were quick to point out Osteen's churches benefit from tax-exempt status and demanded that he do more to help the relief effort.
Joel Osteen won't open his church that holds 16,000 to hurricane victims because it only provides shelter from taxes. #HoustonStrong
A church spokesperson eventually responded to the social media storm claiming the church had never closed its doors and planned to take in Hurricane Harvey victims once other shelters had reached capacity.
"We are prepared to shelter people once the cities and county shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm in helping our fellow citizens rebuild their lives."
While the Osteen controversy reignited the energy behind those who believe churches should have to pay taxes, many still argue churches should maintain their tax-exempt status because they function similarly to non-profit organizations.
"Churches provide goods and services to communities... Thus, donations should be used for those goods and services, not to pay taxes. If donors knew some of their contributions were allocated to pay taxes instead of providing services, they may be less inclined to donate. Furthermore, these services vary greatly by church and by community, from building homes in underserved communities to providing food, clothing, educational scholarships and health care."
Many argue that all churches shouldn't be punished for the abuses of few, and smaller churches would be hurt the most if they lost their tax-exempt status.
"As with any organization, larger is better. Big churches would have the resources to hire lawyers and accountants that would minimize their tax burden. Smaller churches that currently operate on shoestring budgets would face a relatively greater cost in order to comply with new regulations."