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Brian Houston, a co-founder and senior pastor at the celebrity-attended megachurch Hillsong, was charged on Thursday with covering up a child sexual abuse case.
Police in New South Wales, Australia, say Houston “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.”
Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses of Child Sexual Abuse found in 2014 that Houston failed to contact police after his father told him he had sexually abused a 7-year-old boy.
Houston denied charges in a statement to Insider.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” he said in a statement through Hillsong. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Hillsong said in its own statement to Insider that it was “disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged.”
“He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name,” the church said. “Given that this matter is now before the court, neither Pastor Brian or Hillsong Church will be making further statements. We thank all who are a part of our church for their support and prayers at this time.”
Hillsong has a congregation in the millions worldwide, including celebrities like Justin Beiber. In Nov. 2020, celebrity pastor Carl Lentz was fired after admitting to being “unfaithful” with his wife.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.