Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has been acquitted of concealing his father’s abuse of a young boy.
On Thursday, a Sydney court cleared the 69-year-old former Hillsong Church global senior pastor of covering up his father Frank Houston’s sexual abuse of a 7-year-old boy in the 1970s.
Brian Houston learned about his father’s abuse of Brett Sengstock in 1999. His father who was the Assemblies of God Church pastor admitted his crime. He consequently was defrocked. Frank died in 2004 at 82 without being charged.
Brian informed the church officials about his father’s crime but not the police. He maintained in court that he did not report the abuse to authorities because, by the time he found out in 1999, Sengstock was an adult and did not want the police involved.
The Downing Centre local District Court Magistrate Gareth Christofi ruled that Brian Houston had a reasonable excuse for not reporting Frank Houston’s offenses to the police. Christofi also accepted that Houston believed the victim did not want the abuse in the 1970s reported to the police. Brian was found not guilty on one count of concealing an indictable offense.
However, during the trial which started in December, Sengstock testified that he never instructed Houston to withhold the abuse’s report. Sengstock told reporters outside the court that he was held accountable for the church’s refusal to report Frank to police.
“Frank Houston was no pioneer for Christianity. His legacy remains a faded memory of a pedophile,” Sengstock told reporters.
“I want to express my sadness to Brett Sengstock, genuine sadness about what my father did to him and all his victims,” Brian told reporters outside court amid tears.
“He was obviously a serial pedophile. We probably will never know the extent of his pedophilia. A lot of people’s lives have been tragically hurt and for that, I’ll always be very sad. But I’m not my father,” he added
Hillsong acknowledged the ruling in a statement from the church, reports CNN. “Our prayer is that those impacted deeply and irrevocably by the actions of Frank Houston will find peace and healing and that our former senior pastor Brian Houston and his family can look to the future and continue to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives,” it said.