Brad Sylvester, DCNF
An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows Joel Osteen Ministries refusing to accept a woman’s online prayer request unless she pays monthly donation fee.
The parody account is neither associated with televangelist Joel Osteen nor his church. A spokesman for Osteen’s church has confirmed the account is fake and clarified that they do not charge for prayer requests.
Osteen is a popular Texas-based televangelist known for preaching the “prosperity gospel,” a form of Christian teaching that equates faith with material well-being. His sermons, which are broadcast globally, have generated an estimated 52,000 people in weekly attendance at his Lakewood Church in Houston, according to the Christian Post.
Multiple Facebook users recently shared an image that purportedly shows the Joel Osteen Ministries refusing to accept a woman’s marital prayer request on Facebook until she pays a monthly donation fee.
“Unfortunately, your Joel Osteen prayer request account has not been activated,” the supposed Joel Osteen Ministries account responds. “In order to activate your account, you will need to add a monthly donation of $24.99, which will give you access to 3 prayer requests per month. If you donate $49.99 each month you will become a Platinum Prayer Request member, which gives you access to over 10 prayer requests per month and a chance to buy tickets to my…”
But the Joel Osteen Ministries account that responded to the request appears to be an imposter. The account lacks the blue check mark that indicates it has been verified by Facebook, whereas Osteen’s official account has it. Osteen’s website also includes a page where prayer requests can be submitted for free, once a user creates an account.
“Joel Osteen Ministries never requests money for prayer,” said Donald Illoff, a spokesman for the church, in an email to The Associated Press. “The image being circulated is from an impostor account.”
Osteen’s verified Twitter account also weighed in on the screen grab, writing, “If you see this, it is FAKE. Joel Osteen Ministries never requests money for prayer.”
If you see this, it is FAKE.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) May 15, 2019
Comedian Ben Palmer, who creates parody Facebook accounts of various organizations, appears to have made the account pictured, according to USA Today. In a May 2020 YouTube video, he took credit for it, explaining he “made a Joel Osteen lookalike page and responded to that person.” He previously made a parody account for the City of Atlanta that got shut down after he announced that the city was going to destroy Stone Mountain, according to BuzzFeed News.