The Australian reports…
“Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston should be referred to police for investigation after he failed to report child sexual abuse carried out by his father, the royal commission’s senior counsel has found.
Simeon Beckett, counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, also found Brian Houston — who was national president of the Pentecostal church umbrella organisation Assemblies of God when he heard about the abuse — had a “conflict of interest” and never told police about his father Frank Houston’s abuse of a boy from the age of seven in 1970. He first found out about the abuse in 1999.
His submission says that Frank Houston admitted the abuse to his son and this confession could have been used to secure a conviction had Brian Houston informed police. “As that information may relate to contravention of a law … it is submitted it is appropriate to refer Pastor Brian Houston’s conduct to the NSW Police Commissioner,” it says.
The commission heard evidence that Frank Houston abused several children in Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s while at the Assemblies of God, before Hillsong existed.
The account of the boy was first made to other church pastors in 1998 and Frank Houston offered the victim $10,000, the commission heard. Months later, when the money did not arrive, the victim phoned Brian Houston, who was also a senior pastor at the Hills Christian Life Centre. The commission heard Brian Houston responded: “Yes, OK, I’ll get the money to you … You know, it’s your fault all this happened. You tempted my father.” Brian Houston denied the exchange.
Mr Beckett said in his submission to the inquiry, released yesterday, that the Assemblies of God did not follow its complaint procedure between November 1998 and December 1999. Under Brian Houston it abrogated this duty by “not interviewing the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations (and) not documenting any … steps it took”.
“In 1999 the Assemblies of God set aside its own policy for handling allegations against ministers, and ignored Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict of interest in order to permit Pastor Brian Houston to handle the allegations of child sexual abuse against his father,” the submission says. “In 1999 and 2000 (he) and the national executive of the Assemblies of God did not refer the allegations of child sexual abuse against Frank Houston to the police.”
Mr Beckett also found the Assemblies of God offered Frank Houston a chance to return to his ministry, despite the allegations and the fact this was against policy.
Frank Houston, who has since died, was allowed to resign and was offered a financial “retirement package”. His son was present in the boardroom of the Hillsong Church — merged with Frank Houston’s Sydney Christian Life Centre — when the resignation letter was tabled, the commission heard. In a submission on behalf of Brian Houston, Hillsong lawyer Mark Higgins said there was a “preponderance of evidence that (he) had a reasonable excuse for not reporting (the) allegation or Frank Houston’s confession to the police”. The content of the findings were not disputed, however.”
*Comments on this story are (temporarily) not allowed for legal reasons.