Hillsong megachurch founder charged with allegedly covering up child sex abuse

Authorities have arrested Brian Houston, founder of Hillsong Church, on charges of covering up child sex abuse, BuzzFeed News reported.

What’s a brief history here?

Houston has for years denied that he withheld information regarding child sex abuse allegations against his father, late former pastor Frank Houston, which stemmed from purported assaults that were said to have taken place in the 1970s.

Houston’s father reportedly confessed to the abuse before his death in 2004 and was accused of abusing up to nine underage boys.

What are the details? 

New South Wales, Australia, police arrested 67-year-old Brian Houston on Thursday and charged him with concealing a serious indictable offense.

According to Fox News, a government inquiry into “institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse” in 2015 found that Houston did not tell authorities that his father was a child sex abuser. 

The inquiry, the outlet noted, found that Houston “became aware of allegations against his father in 1999” and simply “allowed him to retire quietly than report him to police.” 

Houston told BuzzFeed News that he is innocent.

“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” he told the outlet. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”

The outlet reported that Hillsong Church has responded to past related media reports by “defending its founder while distancing him and the church from the actions of his father, who was also a pastor.”

A previous Hillsong statement obtained by BuzzFeed News said, “The abuse by Frank Houston occurred many years before Hillsong church existed. It is an indisputable fact that Pastor Brian is not a perpetrator of abuse, has never been accused of abuse, and took immediate action to expose and stop a child abuser.”

Back in 2014, Houston said that he confronted his father over the abuse allegations in 1992 and “ensured he never preached or served in any ministry capacity again.”

The Daily Beast reported that if convicted on the charge, Houston face a maximum charge of five years in prison. 

Fox News reported that a spokesperson for Hillsong Church said that it was “disappointed” about the charge. 

“We ask that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right,” the statement read. “He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name. We thank all who are a part of our church for their support and prayers at this time.”

The Sydney-based megachurch founder is due in court in October.