Brian Houston, the founder and former chief of the worldwide megachurch Hillsong, was acquitted Thursday in Sydney, Australia, of a cost related to failing to report his father’s sexual abuse of a kid.
Mr. Houston had confronted one depend of concealing a severe indictable offense for an additional individual. In August 2021, the police within the state of New South Wales had charged that when Mr. Houston’s father, Frank Houston, confessed in 1999 to sexually assaulting a younger boy a long time earlier than, his son didn’t inform the authorities.
Mr. Houston pleaded not responsible and instructed a court docket in Sydney that he didn’t report the assault as a result of the sufferer didn’t need it reported. On Thursday, Justice of the Peace Gareth Christofi agreed with him, discovering that he had a “affordable excuse” for not alerting authorities.
When Mr. Houston discovered of his father’s offense, which had occurred within the Seventies, he alerted church management however didn’t report the assault to the police. His father, Frank Houston, who additionally was a pastor, died in 2004. He was by no means charged.
Through the trial in Sydney, Brett Sengstock testified that Frank Houston had raped him in January 1970, when he was 7 years outdated. Frank Houston, who was a pastor at a New Zealand church on the time, was visiting Sydney and was staying on the Sengstock household residence.
Mr. Sengstock previously said that the abuse continued till he was 12.
Mr. Sengstock mentioned throughout the trial that he by no means instructed Brian Houston that he didn’t need the matter reported to police, and prosecutors accused Mr. Houston of concealing the assaults to guard the status of the church, slightly than searching for justice for Mr. Sengstock.
“When confronted with a possible scandal, the tradition was to guard the church,” one of many prosecutors, Gareth Harrison, mentioned.
Brian Houston’s lawyer, Phillip Boulten, argued that when Mr. Houston discovered of the assault in 1999, Mr. Sengstock, who then was 36, made it “very clear he didn’t need the police concerned.”
Mr. Houston, who on the time was president of the Australian department of the Assemblies of God denomination, revoked his father’s preaching credentials, and talked about throughout addresses at a number of church occasions that his father had been eliminated “due to baby molestation,” all of which advised that there was no cover-up, Mr. Boulten mentioned.
After the decision on Thursday, Mr. Houston instructed reporters that his father was a “serial pedophile” and expressed unhappiness for his victims.
“However I’m not my father. I didn’t commit this offense,” he mentioned, including that he felt “aid” that “the reality had come out.”
Outdoors the court docket, Mr. Sengstock mentioned that whatever the verdict, “I’ve acquired a life sentence” on account of Frank Houston’s assaults.
Frank Houston’s offenses had been detailed at an Australian 2014 royal fee in opposition to institutional responses to baby sexual abuse. At a hearing for the royal commission, Brian Houston mentioned that when he discovered of the assaults and confronted his father, “he went extraordinarily dry within the mouth and mentioned ‘Sure, these items did occur.”
The police then opened a prison investigation in 2019 and charged Brian Houston in 2021. The trial began in December.
Hillsong was as soon as in style with celebrities and younger folks drawn to its music and sermons that emphasised positivity, however lately it has been hit by scandals, together with Mr. Houston’s.
In 2020, Carl Lentz, the superstar pastor of its New York department, was fired by Mr. Houston for “management points and breaches of belief, plus a current revelation of ethical failures.” Mr. Lentz admitted to an affair, and Mr. Houston accused him of narcissism and “manipulating, mistreating folks.”
In January 2022, after he was charged, Mr. Houston stepped away from ministerial duties for Hillsong. Two months later, he resigned from the church altogether after an inside investigation discovered he had breached the church’s code of conduct at the least twice over the previous decade by behaving inappropriately with two ladies.