Police allege Hillsong Church founder concealed child sex abuse

Police allege Hillsong Church founder concealed child sex abuse
Brian Houston, founder of the Sydney-based global Hillsong Church (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)

The founder of the Sydney-based global Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, has been charged with concealing child sex offences, police said on Thursday.

Detectives served Mr Houston’s lawyers on Thursday with a notice for him to appear in a Sydney court on October 5 for allegedly concealing a serious indictable offence, police said.

“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.

I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges

Brian Houston

Mr Houston, 67, suggested 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,” he 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 Mr Houston did not tell police that his father was a child sex abuser.

The inquiry found that Mr Houston became aware of allegations against his father in 1999 and allowed him to retire quietly, rather report him to police.

His father confessed to the abuse before he died in 2004 at the age of 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 Australia’s Pentecostal prime minister, Scott Morrison, that Mr Houston be invited to a 2019 state dinner hosted by then-president Donald Trump.

Mr Morrison confirmed that he had wanted Mr Houston, whom he had known “for a long time,” included on the invitation list. Mr Morrison said he did not know why Mr Houston was not invited.

Mr Houston has been based in the United States in recent months, preached at a service in Mexico last month and delivered a livestreamed sermon from California on Sunday, Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

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