Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, America's largest Christian church, was accused by Piers Morgan Tuesday of "sitting on the fence" on the issue of the death penalty after the Texas minister said he believes in second chances and has faith in the justice system.
During the "Piers Morgan Tonight" show, Morgan asked Osteen what his view was on state executions, especially in the context of the recent execution of Troy Davis. In that case, Morgan said, the prosecution could not have been a hundred percent sure that Davis committed the crime.
Osteen attempted to avoid the answer by pointing out both sides of the argument.
"It's a complicated issue, Piers. I haven't thought a whole lot about it, but of course I'm for second chances and mercy," he said. “Yet the flip side is: there's consequences for what we've done. I don't know what my total stand is."
Morgan pressed, "A life for a life?"
"I don’t know," Osteen answered.
Morgan interrupted and attacked the pastor for not taking a clearly defined standing on the death penalty, noting that Osteen is seen as an influential spiritual leader.
"I don't think that you can say that …," the TV host said. "You can't be the man who influences millions of people and sits on the fence on key moral issues like that."
Osteen ended up not giving a precise answer during the show.
"I think the thing is that we have a justice system and I believe in our system of justice," he replied to Morgan.
The Houston preacher added that there is a "merciful" part of him that wishes to give "everybody a chance," but there is also so another side that agrees with the law, he implied.
"It's hard for me to say 'Yeah, let's just kill this person because he's so bad.' They can be redeemed, they can be forgiven; but they may still have to be put to death. That's hard for me-I don't know what the right thing is. I mean, there's people smarter than me that make all the laws," the pastor said.
Osteen's ministry reportedly reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world.
The Osteen and his wife, Victoria, appeared on the Piers Morgan show to promote the pastor's latest book, Every Day a Friday, which this week hit Number 1 on the New York Times Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous Hardcover best seller list.