Brian Houston: Hillsong Church founder denies concealing child abuse

Brian Houston: Hillsong Church founder denies concealing child abuse

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Image caption, Hillsong founder Brian Houston is accused of covering up his father’s alleged abuse

The Australian founder of the global Hillsong Church will plead not guilty to charges of concealing child sexual abuse.

Brian Houston, 67, was charged by police in Australia in August following a two-year investigation.

The pastor of the megachurch was based in the US at that time but has since returned to Sydney to face his trial.

It relates to sexual abuse allegedly committed by his late father, Frank Houston, in the 1970s.

Brian Houston’s lawyer told a preliminary court hearing on Tuesday that her client denied the allegations. Mr Houston did not attend the hearing.

He has previously professed his innocence, saying the charges had come “as a shock”.

“I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he said in a statement in August.

Mr Houston is good friends with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has previously described him as a spiritual “mentor”.

New South Wales Police launched their investigation after a landmark national inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse – which ran from 2013 to 2017 – heard that Frank Houston had abused a boy in the 1970s.

Frank Houston died in 2004 aged 82.

Police allege that Brian Houston knew of his father’s abuse as early as 1999 and “without reasonable excuse, failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police”.

He will next attend court on 23 November.

Last month, Mr Houston stepped down from the board of his church but remains a “Global Senior Pastor”.

Founded in 1984, Hillsong has become a global megachurch that has attracted celebrities including Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Bono.

The church is known for its brand of modern evangelism – which includes pop song-style hymns and services held in concert arenas popular with young people.

It says it has churches in 30 countries and a regular weekly congregation of over 150,000 people.

Later that year, he also invited Mr Houston to a state dinner with then US President Donald Trump in Washington, but this was vetoed by the White House because the pastor was under criminal investigation.

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