Six East Texans Arrested for Heckling at Joel Osteen’s Church
Six East Texans affiliated with the controversial Church of Wells were arrested Sunday after heckling preacher Joel Osteen at his Houston church.
During the 11 a.m. service at Lakewood Church on Sunday, witnesses said multiple people jumped up from their seats during Osteen's sermon and started screaming at the world-renowned pastor.
"He jumped up with his Bible and started screaming 'Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel' and Joel kind of just repeated scripture and they just escorted them out," Casey Eaglin told KHOU in Houston. "I was terrified for a quick second there. After the first guy, I thought oh it's just a random heckler, but then you start seeing the second, the third."
The outbursts alarmed a lot of people in the crowd, especially after the recent shooting in Charleston, S.C.
"All I could think of is you don't know what's going on, and I just can't wait to find out, so I've gotta get out of there," Anwar Richardson told ABC 13.
Lakewood Church told KHOU that many of its volunteer ushers are also law enforcement officers, and many are armed during the service for security purposes. More than 43,500 people attend services at Lakewood Church each week. It is in the former Compaq Center in Houston, which seats 16,800.
"Thank you all for your patience and we'll just continue to receive what God has for us. It's a good day to be alive," Osteen said during the disruptions.
The Houston Chronicle reported this was not the first time the same group of people were removed from the church. They were reportedly denied entry into the church about a month ago.
All six were charged with criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor. Elder Jacob Gardner, one of the founders of the church, is reportedly one of the six arrested.
The Church of Wells is a small congregation in Wells, Texas, in between Lufkin and Alto on Highway 69. The church has often made headlines in recent years for controversial beliefs and criminal activity.
In May 2012, an infant born to a church member died after not receiving medical attention for three days.
The most publicized case revolved around Catherine Grove, who left her family in 2013 to join the church. The church kept her from her family despite their many attempts to see her. She left the church and rejoined her family earlier this year, but she returned to the church less than two weeks later.
Church members have often clashed with Wells residents, including a physical altercation between the two in April 2014 during a town homecoming celebration.