Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston will plead not guilty to illegally covering up allegations of child abuse by his father, his lawyer told a court on Tuesday.
Houston did not appear in local Downing Center court in Sydney when his indictment was first mentioned before a clerk. His lawyer told the court that Houston would plead not guilty to the cover-up of a serious criminal act committed by another person, his late preacher father Frank Houston.
The case will then go to court on November 23.
Police allege Frank Houston indecently assaulted a young man in 1970.
Court documents allege Brian Houston believed his father had committed the crime. Police allege young Houston did not disclose information to police that could help secure his father’s prosecution.
Since being indicted, Houston has resigned from the board of directors of Hillsong, the church he founded with his wife Bobbie in Sydney in 1983. Now a global empire, the church says 150,000 people in 30 countries attend his services and 50 million people sing his songs each. the week.
Houston, 64, was in the United States in August when detectives served his Sydney lawyers with notice to appear in court.
He said in a statement at the time that he welcomed “the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Houston returned to Sydney last month and was released from 14-day hotel quarantine last week.
An Australian government investigation into institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse found in 2015 that Houston had not told police her father was a child sex abuser.
The inquest found that Houston learned of allegations against his father in 1999 and allowed him to quietly retire rather than report him to the police. Her father confessed to the abuse before he died in 2004 at the age of 82.
Hillsong Church has repeatedly stated that it was not involved in this matter because Frank Houston never worked for the church and defended Brian Houston’s response.
“After being briefed on his father’s actions, Brian Houston confronted his father, reported the matter to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia, referred the matter to the Sydney Christian Life Center Board of Directors, and then made a public announcement to the church. . Brian sought to honor the victim’s multiple requests not to inform the police, “the church said in a press release in July.
“As a recent development, charges have been formally filed against Brian Houston,” the church said at the time. “We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged and ask that he be given the presumption of innocence and due process as he is entitled to. He has informed us that he will defend this and is eager to clear his name. “
Hillsong, known for its cult music and mega-churches across the world, became its own denomination in 2018. Last year, Brian Houston announced an investigation at his New York campus, where Pastor Carl Lentz had resigned for infidelity.
Additional reports by CT.