Brian Houston Trial for Sex Abuse Coverup Charge Is Underway

By Dale Chamberlain
brian houston abuse coverup
Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston (Video screengrab / Facebook)

After numerous delays, the trial of former megachurch pastor Brian Houston is underway in Australia, as Houston defends the charge that he intentionally covered up the child sex abuse offenses of his late father, Frank Houston, who was also the megachurch pastor who gave the younger Houston his first opportunities in church leadership.

Houston has pleaded not guilty to one charge of concealing the serious indictable offense of another person. If convicted, he could face up to five years behind bars. 

The court is seeking to prove that from 1999 to 2004, Houston willfully covered up the abuses of his father, only disclosing information that could aid in a prosecution after his father had died. 

According to NZ Herald, the fact that Houston had knowledge of the sexual abuse is not in question. Instead, Houston’s defense rests on the fact that he had a “reasonable excuse” not to report it, as Houston claims that the abuse survivor did not want to go to the police.

“The prosecution case is that he didn’t report not because of what the complainant wanted but because of other reasons … The primary prosecution case is the reason he didn’t report it was to protect his father and the church,” said Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison.

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The abuse survivor, Brett Sengstock, was allegedly victimized as a child by the elder Houston on more than one occasion in the 1970s. In one such instance, Sengstock alleged that Frank Houston exposed himself to him, masturbating in front of him. 

After this encounter, Sengstock told his mother what had happened. 

However, Sengstock was discouraged from reporting the abuse by his mother and other family members, who allegedly told him that a legal dispute would reflect poorly on Christians in the public square. Rather, the matter should be settled outside of courts. 

Sengstock told the court that he felt “indoctrinated” by the church, which contributed to his years-long silence regarding abuse. 

Sengstock further alleged that, sometime in the late 1990s, he agreed to “forgive” the elder Houston in exchange for $10,000, codifying the agreement by signing a dirty napkin at a McDonalds where he had agreed to meet with Frank Houston. 

When the money was not paid to him, Sengstock ended up in contact with Brian Houston, who allegedly blamed Sengstock for his own abuse, saying that Sengstock had “tempted” Frank Houston. 

Following the exchange, which took place in 1999, Sengstock received a check for the agreed upon sum, something Sengstock characterized as payment for his “silence.”

Houston, who founded Hillsong Church four decades ago, saw his leadership role at the church increasingly diminish in the run-up to this trial. He was asked to take a year-long leave of absence in January so that he could focus on his defense, with his eventual resignation from the church coming in March. 

Houston’s resignation came after it was publicly revealed that his leave of absence was not merely to give him space to prepare for his criminal defense, but also because of other incidents requiring discipline, including substance abuse and inappropriate behavior toward women who weren’t his wife. 

In a recent video, Houston denied the claim that he resigned for these moral reasons, saying, “I want to be clear: the media and others incorrectly say I resigned because I breached the Hillsong code of conduct, but that’s just not true. I didn’t resign because of my mistakes. I resigned because of the announcements and statements that have been made, which Bobbie and I felt made my position untenable.”

Houston further alleged that his resignation was the end result of a “progression” whereby he was “squeezed out” by the Hillsong Church board.

The court hearing is expected to last multiple weeks. 

This article originally appeared at

Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) is the Content Manager for He is also a blogger and podcaster who is passionate about helping people tackle ancient truths in everyday settings. He lives in Southern California with his wife Tamara and their two sons.



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2 thoughts on “Brian Houston Trial for Sex Abuse Coverup Charge Is Underway”

  1. What is wrong with these people? This is sick!

    There seems to be more cases of sexual deviants, perverts, pedophiles, adulterers, abusers and harassers in the church than in any other segment of today’s society.

    Making matters worse are so called “Christian leaders” like Houston who find ways to cover up the perverted deeds of people like his father at the expense of their victims.

  2. I’m not a fan of adversarial legal process; where we see jousting between prosecution and defense agents. It’s a process wide open to being derailed by factors and dynamics irrelevant to fact and truth. However, its what we’ve got.
    The legal argument here is very narrow. Two arguments about why BH acted as he did. I think we then have to actively ignore commentary on BH which is simply prejudicial rather than probative; where it will be of interest to see whether Australian law allows for exclusion of such argument.
    The testimony of the victim of the abuse in question may be put in some question by his seeking payment of a significant sum of money.
    The case may come down to unanswerable questions about the respective testimonies of BH and the abuse victim (and members of his family). I could see the case process petering out in that landscape. Ultimately it my end being seen as a case that should never have been brought to criminal trial.

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