It may be a little late for an April Fools' Day joke but that didn't stop some on the Internet from pulling off an elaborate hoax targeting televangelist Joel Osteen, which included telling his many followers that he was denouncing the Christian faith.
On Monday, a website posing as Osteen's official webpage unveiled a "special announcement," claiming the pastor of the Lakewood Church in Texas was leaving the Christian faith and bashed the Bible for being a "fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book."
Osteen spoke with ABC News overnight and said he found the entire hoax mildly amusing.
"You know, I'm really not angry. I don't feel like a victim," Osteen said. "I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down."
The fake website also rolled out a video complete with a screen grab of CNN's website with the headline. "Pastor of mega church resigns, rejects Christ." A Drudge headline proclaimed, "Osteen: I am no longer a Christian."
The bogus site featured a letter title "I am leaving the Christian faith."
"I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence 'God' even exists," Osteen was falsely quoted saying in the letter.
There was an accompanying Twitter account that has now been suspended.
True to form, Osteen is turning the other cheek and spinning this bit of adversity as part of his core message.
"You can't stop everything from happening, but you can choose to say, 'God, it's in your hands'. I'm going to move forward. I'm going stay full of joy and I'm going enjoy this day," Osteen told ABC News.
While the leader of the 45,000 member church is adopting a forgiving attitude, he did not rule out taking some sort of legal action.
The website's domain was registered to a group called BMG Enterprises in Milwaukee and it went live on April Fools' Day. It appears that information was also fake.
BMG did not return ABC News' request for comment.Also Read