Brian Houston believes he did the ‘right thing’ not going to police after father admitted molesting boy

The Guardian [London, England]

December 20, 2022

By Australian Associated Press

Hillsong founder maintains it was victim’s explicit wish for incident not to be made public or for there to be an investigation, court hears

The Hillsong founder, Brian Houston, believes he did the “right thing” not going to police after his father told him he had molested an underage boy three decades earlier.

Houston maintains it was the victim’s explicit wish not for the incident to be made public or for there to be an investigation by authorities.

Frank Houston admitted abusing a young boy at a home in Sydney’s Coogee in 1970, which he confessed to his son in 1999.

Brian Houston is charged with concealing the crime until his father’s death in 2004, to which he pleaded not guilty.

The 68-year-old told a court hearing on Wednesday he did not believe justice for his father’s criminal act could only be achieved through a police investigation.

Following his father’s confession, Houston informed a meeting of the church’s national executive who banned Frank Houston from preaching.

“What I was committed to was (the victim’s) wishes, not betraying him and his wishes,” Houston said.

“And making sure that the national executive were aware of this complaint that I’d received. To me, that was me making sure that justice was done.

“I believe we did the right thing, that I personally did the right thing.”

Under cross-examination, Houston was grilled about the contents of a sermon he gave to hundreds of worshippers at the Hillsong Church Hills Campus in 2002.

The crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison put to Houston he had “sanitised” his father’s deeds to protect the church from scandal, which he denied.

“Here you are … telling your congregation that someone had called the church and made a very serious moral accusation against your father,” Harrison said.

“You alluded to things that he had done wrong, but you didn’t hit the nail on the head.”

Houston told the congregation he had confronted his father about the accusations which led to “certain confessions” about “issues”, according to a transcript of the sermon read in part to Downing Centre local court.

“You haven’t said what the confessions were. You haven’t even said what the issues are,” Harrison said.

“It’s true that I didn’t talk about the specifics of exactly what Frank had done to the whole congregation,” Houston replied.

During the 2002 sermon, Houston also stated: “My dad, he loves God. He still loves God. He’s still in the word.”

Harrison suggested: “What you were really saying was ‘despite this part of his life that got out of hand, he’s still a good man’.”

Houston said it was “not necessarily” his intention of conveying that to the congregation.

Harrison put to Houston he chose the words of the sermon carefully to “disguise the truth”, which he denied.

“You’re trying to fool them into thinking this was a serious allegation, but not an allegation about child sexual assault.”

“I never tried to fool the congregation,” Houston said.

Earlier this week, Houston told the court how difficult it was for him to talk about his father’s crimes and how he struggled for years to use the word “paedophile” to describe him.

“I found it tremendously difficult every time I had to tell the story again,” Houston said.

The hearing continues.