The founder of Australia’s international Hillsong church has been charged with failing to report sexual crimes against a child to police after he discovered his father had been abusing a seven-year-old boy in the 1970s.
Houston says he confronted his father about the abuse and has been open that he knew what was going on. He adamantly denies the charges.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” he said in a statement issued by the church, according to The New York Times. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Police in New South Wales began investigating the allegations in 2019, and say that Houston “knowingly concealed information about child sexual assault.”
The victim says that Houston knew what had happened, but made no effort to contact police, which was the conclusion of a 2014 Australian royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse.
However, at the time, Houston said that he had confronted his father, Frank Houston, and removed him from preaching at the church, but that the victim had not wanted the police to get involved.
“He told me at age 36 – this is how old he was when I found this out – he told me that he didn’t want the police involved,” Houston said in 2019.
“The law itself spells out that very circumstance that if an adult victim doesn’t want the police involved, it is a reasonable excuse for not including the police.”
The victim, Brett Sengstock, insists this is simply not the case, however.
“It’s a complete fallacy. No, I didn’t tell Brian that at all,” he told The New Daily in response to Houston’s comments at the time. “I am the victim. I’ve been brutally raped by Frank Houston…He destroyed by life. Brian covered it up and there is no doubt about that.”
“Why would I want to cover Frank Houston or him?” he asked.
Frank Houston, who was never charged, died in 2004.
The scandal has received particular attention in Australia as the current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is a supporter of Hillsong and according to The Epoch Times, even wanted Houston to be invited to the White House during his state visit to meet with President Donald Trump in 2019.
Houston is thought to be living in the United States with his wife, having been granted a rare travel exemption amid the coronavirus last year. He will appear in a Sydney court on October 5.
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