Brian Houston, founder of scandal–plagued Australian megachurch Hillsong, will plead not guilty to charges of concealing child sexual abuse.
Authorities in New South Wales, Australia, in August charged the 67-year-old pastor with concealing child sex offenses committed by his late father, the Pentecostal pastor and pedophile, Frank Houston. At a preliminary court hearing Tuesday, Houston’s lawyer said her client denied the allegations and will plead not guilty, the BBC reported.
Houston, who was based in the US, has reportedly returned to Australia since being charged but did not attend the hearing. His next court date is set for Nov. 23.
“Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” officials for Sydney’s Royal Commission on Institutional Leaders’ Handling of Sexual Abuse told local outlets upon charging Houston in August. The charges followed a two-year investigation into the sexual abuse of Frank Houston, who died in 2004 at 82. They carry a maximum sentence of up to five years behind bars.
In a statement received by The Post at the time, Houston claimed he was innocent.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” he said. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
A spokesperson for Hillsong told The Post in August that they were “disappointed” by the charges.
Shortly after he was charged, Houston stepped down from almost all of his positions at the Australia-based megachurch, a transition he’d been moving toward since February.
“I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations,” Houston wrote in an e-mail sent to congregants. “I did this so that these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season.”
Hillsong did not respond to The Post’s request for comment Tuesday.