Hillsong founder Brian Houston hit with child sexual abuse concealment charge

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston. Photo: Hillsong Church/Facebook.

By DAMIEN NOVAK

Brian Houston, the founder of Sydney megachurch, Hillsong, has been charged by NSW Police for allegedly concealing his father’s sexual abuse of a child in the 1970s. 

In a statement issued this afternoon, the NSW Police Force confirmed detectives had served a court attendance notice on 67-year-old Houston’s lawyer in Sydney at about 2pm.

The charge against Houston – that of ‘concealing a serious indictable offence’ – carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.  

It follows a NSW Police investigation of several year’s duration, which has concluded that Houston failed to report vital information about his father’s crime. 

A statement by NSW Police said: ‘Police will allege in court the man 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 began investigating Houston after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined the Hills Christian Life Centre and Sydney Christian Life Centre – the predecessors of Hillsong – over their handling of child sexual abuse allegations levelled against Frank Houston in 1999.

Frank Houston died in 2004 at the age of 82 after confessing to “a continuing problem” of sexual interest in young boys. 

A victim of Houston’s “problem” told the Royal Commission in 2014 the abuse left him feeling “shame, fear and embarrassment”.

Houston Jr, who was not remanded in custody, is now required to attend Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on Tuesday, 5 October.

The case is set to have ramifications all over the world, with Hillsong operating 80 churches in 23 countries and claiming 150,000 members worldwide.

Thirty of Hillsong’s churches are located in Australia, where it has approximately 40,000 members. 

The charismatic Christian church counts Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NRL player Jarryd Hayne and superstar singers Justin Bieber and Guy Sebastian among its members. 

In March 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed he had sought an invitation for Brian Houston to attend a dinner with then US President Donald Trump at the White House, despite the police investigation into Houston being public knowledge at the time.  

The Prime Minister’s confirmation of the story followed months of Morrison evading questions about the matter from journalists and the ALP, and, one one occasion, deriding the story as “gossip”.