Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston will plead not guilty to illegally concealing alleged child abuse by his father, his lawyer told a court on Tuesday.
Houston did not appear at Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court when his charge was mentioned before a registrar for the first time. His lawyer told the court Houston would be pleading not guilty to the charge of concealing a serious indictable offense of another person, his late preacher father Frank Houston.
The case will next be before the court on Nov. 23.
Police will allege that Frank Houston indecently assaulted a young male in 1970.
Court documents allege that Brian Houston believed his father had committed the crime. Police will allege that the younger Houston failed to disclose information to police that could help secure the prosecution of his father.
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Since being charged, Houston has stepped down from the board of Hillsong, the church he founded with wife Bobbie in Sydney in 1983. Now a global empire, the church says 150,000 people in 30 countries attend its services and 50 million people sing its songs each week.
Houston, 64, was in the United States in August when detectives served his Sydney lawyers with a notice for him to appear in court.
He said in a statement at the time he welcomed the “opportunity to set the record straight.”
Houston returned to Sydney last month and was released from 14 days’ hotel quarantine last week.
An Australian government inquiry into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse found in 2015 that Houston did not tell police that his father was a child sex abuser.
The inquiry found that 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 age 82.
7 thoughts on “Lawyer: Hillsong Founder Brian Houston to Deny Concealing Abuse in Court”
Claims and arguments presented in the Hillsong response (linked as, ‘did not tell police’) indicate that BH intends to present a robust defense.
That being said, the intention of prosecuting him, may be less to do with indictment under existing law, as it will turn out to be an attempt to establish fresh or refreshed legal precedent.
One complication for prosecution might well be the Hillsong claim that numerous others knew about FH’s offence. The question then being why they are not being prosecuted alongside BH.
Another issue attaches to the probable stealth intention of the prosecution; namely to establish the precedent as a matter of institutional liability; where, again, BH appears to have all his defense ducks in a robust row.
It would also be unwise to leave out of consideration, that the pendulum on sexual abuse claims, has swung from horrendous collective indifference, to where any claim of sexual abuse now has a strong cultural affirming wind behind it, irrespective of established facts and truths.
There is nothing unusual in prosecutors going after the person they believe had the greatest role and/or responsibility for any crimes committed. Others are often granted leniency for their cooperation in helping to bring down the key player or players, regardless of how just that might be.
There is also no reason to believe this is the beginning of a wave of over-zealous prosecutions of sexual abuse claims. Far from it. By their very nature such cases are complex and very hard to prosecute, especially when the claims go back decades. And when powerful institutions are involved, armed with expensive lawyers, the fight for justice for those who suffered abuse at their hand and again by their coverups will never be easy or assured.
There is no consideration necessary for the pendulum swinging back. Millions of sexual abuse victims will never get their day in court, and their numbers will always swamp the tiny number (by comparison) of those who may end being caught up in a wrongful prosecution.
Mike, thank you for replying. I’m always wary of collective process. So we have had and have collective process which brings about the outcomes you critique in your post. Now and increasingly we have a collective process striving to address and change such outcomes. The same risks attaching to collective process, are had in both instances.
Too uncritically assuming that we are on the side of the angels, is always dangerous. Even as we strive to bring about good, we have to be hyper-alert to the shortcomings and failings and hypocrisies of our all too human striving.
The process of adjudicating human matters under the rule of law, is as complex as it is centrally important. Fair due process, and the principle of innocent until proven guilty, should remain sacrosanct. Any accused has the right to defense, and we should be as scrupulous as we can be when considering that defense.
Colin – very thoughtful comments and on point. Anyone who has run any organization the size of Hillsong knows how difficult these issues can be to deal with in a rapidly changing political landscape. The world is a tool of the evil one who revels in condemnation; in the church, mercy triumphs over judgement. Praying for Brian Houston.
What does the decision to conceal an accusation of the sexual assault of a child from the authorities have to do with “a rapidly changing political landscape?”
Again….Colin’s comments were on point….no one knows the facts; you don’t and I don’t. That’s why we have due process. To pronounce judgement on someone without the facts and due process is anything but Christian. Regarding a “rapidly changing political environment”, that is exactly what we are in. Spirit-filled Christians can honestly have valid but very different methods for addressing even the most contentious of problems. If you’ll remember, Bishop Desmond Tutu convinced a worldly court to grant total amnesty for the perpetrators of murder, rape and violence in Africa far greater than anything we’re talking about here. I think it was the most Christian of solutions. Our current merciless, instant, scorched earth cancel culture is a living version of hell. No one has ever accused Brian Houston of being anything but an fine, upstanding family man whose Hillsong ministry has been a massive blessing to millions. This is an executive leadership issue and should be a civil not criminal matter. Again, my wife and I are praying for the Houstons. We suggest Christians everywhere not take the side of the “accuser of the brethren” and remember that the only reason we have a relationship with God is because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” and granted us eternal forgiveness and amnesty.
All this make me really sad.
My prayers for pastor Bryan Houston
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