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The embattled founding pastor of Hillsong Church allegedly attempted to conceal his father’s own child sexual abuses within church ranks.
Brian Houston, 67, was served a subpoena through his lawyers on Thursday afternoon ordering him to appear in Australian court, according to the Associated Press. Officials say his father, Frank Houston, sexually abused a boy over a number of years — and that his son was aware of the abuse but did nothing.
“Police will allege in court the man [Houston] 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,” Sydney’s Royal Commission on Institutional Leaders Handling of Sexual Abuses said.
Frank Houston, who died in 2004, confessed to the child sex abuse accusations prior to his death, according to the Guardian. He was 82. Officials suspect he may have sexually abused as many as nine children in Australia and New Zealand. No evidence currently directly implicates Brian Houston in the unfolding sex abuse scandal.
Brian Houston allegedly learned of the allegations in the late nineties. However, the megachurch pastor reportedly allowed his disgraced father to retire from Hillsong instead of turning him into authorities, according to a 2015 government inquiry into institutional response to sexual abuse. Houston had been under investigation since at least 2019.
The charismatic preacher, who live-streamed a sermon in California last weekend, has since denied the accusations.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” Houston said in a statement, according to the New York Post. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
A spokesperson for the megachurch was also critical of the new charges.
“We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and ask that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right,” Hillsong said in a statement, Vanity Fair reported. “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.”
In recent years, Hillsong Church has endured a punishing series of scandals. The renewed accusations against Frank and Brian Houston emerged months after the infamous church fired pastor Carl Lentz for sexually abusing a nanny, Vanity Fair reported.
Brian Houston co-founded the megachurch, first known as the Hills Christian Life Centre, with his father, Frank, in the 1980s in South Wales. A decade later, its congregation had grown to include tens of thousands of worshippers. Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner, as well as Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt, and Selena Gomez reportedly have connections to the Australian megachurch.
The 67-year-old, who was recently based in the United States, is scheduled to appear in Sydney’s Downing Centre court on Oct. 5. If convicted, Houston could face a maximum of five years in prison.
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