Former Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston was found not guilty of hiding his father’s sexual abuse of children by an Australian court.
According to The Associated Press, Sydney Magistrate Gareth Christofi found on Thursday that 69-year-old Houston had a reasonable reason for not reporting his father Frank Houston’s abuse of Brett Sengstock to police in the 1970s.
Frank Houston, an Assemblies of God minister who started Hillsong in the 1980s and died in 2004, was accused of sexually abusing several youngsters, including Sengstock.
According to the court, after discovering his father’s abusive behavior in 1999, Brian Houston reported it to church leaders and made numerous public allusions to it.
Despite the fact that Sengstock testified throughout the trial that he had not urged Brian Houston not to disclose the abuse to authorities, Houston was told by others that Sengstock did not want the abuse reported to police.
“Frank Houston was no pioneer for Christianity. His legacy remains a faded memory of a pedophile,” said Sengstock after the verdict, as quoted by the AP. “Regardless of today’s outcome, I have received a life sentence. Blaming the victim is as repulsive as the assaults themselves.”
In comments after the verdict, Houston expressed sympathy for Sengstock and what he went through, saying that he felt “genuine sadness about what my father did to him, and all of his victims.”
“He was obviously a serial pedophile. We probably will never know the extent of his pedophilia, and a lot of people ‘s lives have been tragically hurt, and for that, I’ll always be very sad,” Houston stated, as quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Houston added, “I’ve been found not guilty today, but in fact, I’ve always been not guilty,” believing that he was the victim of a “targeted attack” by authorities.
“I’m not my father. I did not commit this offense,” he continued, as quoted by ABC. “I feel a sense of relief that at last the truth has come out. If I wasn’t Brian Houston from Hillsong, this charge would never have happened. And I know a lot of people agree with me on that.”
In August 2021, Australian authorities charged Houston with hiding his late father’s child sex offenses, prompting the megachurch pastor to issue a statement through Hillsong expressing surprise at the charges.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” stated Houston at the time. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.
Because of the trial, Houston resigned as leader of the multisite Hillsong in January 2022, on the advice of the church’s outside legal counsel.
Houston pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in a separate case resulting from a DUI arrest in California last April. Houston was sentenced to a $140 fine, three years of probation, and other penalties.