Hillsong Church founder charged with concealing child sex abuse
The founder of the global Hillsong Church movement — whose followers in Los Angeles have included pop star Justin Bieber and other celebrities — has been charged with concealing child sex offenses, police in Australia said Thursday.
Detectives served Brian Houston’s lawyer with a notice for him to appear in a Sydney court Oct. 5 for allegedly concealing a serious indictable offense, police said. The Hillsong movement is based in Sydney.
“Police will allege in court the man [Houston] knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” police said in a statement.
Houston, 67, suggested that the charges related to allegations that his preacher father, Frank Houston, had abused a boy over several years in the 1970s.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” Houston said in a statement. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
A government inquiry into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse found in 2015 that Houston did not tell police that his father was an abuser.
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The inquiry found that Houston became aware of allegations against his father in 1999 and allowed him to retire quietly rather than report him to police. His father confessed to the abuse before he died in 2004 at age 82.
There was media speculation that the inquiry’s findings and the ensuing police investigation were reasons why the White House rejected a request by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is Pentecostal, that Houston be invited to a 2019 state dinner hosted by then-President Trump.
Morrison confirmed that he had wanted Houston, whom he had known “for a long time,” to be included on the invitation list. Morrison said he didn’t know why Houston wasn’t invited.
Houston has been based in the U.S. in recent months, preaching at a service in Mexico last month and delivering a livestreamed sermon from California on Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
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