Hillsong Church founder cleared of concealing father’s abuse

AUSTRALIA: Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has been found not guilty of concealing the crimes of his paedophile father.

Australian prosecutors had argued Brian Houston tried to cover up his father’s sexual abuse of a child in the 1970s.

The church founder only learned of the abuse decades later and said he did not report it because the victim, by then an adult, did not want police involved.

Frank Houston, who died in 2004, is believed to have used his position as a pastor to abuse as many as nine boys.

Victim Brett Sengstock – who has waived his right to anonymity – was seven when his family hosted the New Zealand preacher at their home while he was on a tour in Sydney.

It was then that Frank Houston sexually abused him for the first time – abuse which continued over several years when the pastor moved to Australia.

Prosecutors had contended Brian Houston was involved in “hush money” paid to Mr Sengstock some years later, and that he wielded his powerful influence to further cover up abuse allegations.

They argued that his “only focus” in responding to the claim was to protect the Church – that the victim did not want police involved was a convenient excuse for failing to report them.

But on Thursday, Magistrate Gareth Christofi ruled that Mr Houston had a “reasonable excuse” under the law not to do so.

“I do not see any reason why a convenient excuse may not also be a reasonable one,” he said.

Speaking outside court on Thursday, Mr Houston called his father a “serial paedophile” and admitted the extent of his crimes will likely never be known.

“But I am not my father. I did not commit this offence,” the 69-year-old said.

Founded by Brian Houston in Sydney 40 years ago, Hillsong has become a global megachurch known for a brand of modern evangelism that has attracted millions of followers.

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