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Houston, we have a problem with you

Hillsong Church, like the Catholic Church, has become synonymous with covering-up child molestation. Photo: Alec Smart

By ALEC SMART

Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed as ‘gossip’ but didn’t deny the report in the Wall Street Journal that he sought a visa for his spiritual mentor, Pentecostal minister Brian Houston, to accompany him on his visit to the USA on his new jet – Shark One – for a state banquet with President Trump.

Houston himself tweeted via Twitter: “The story that is circulating in the media that Mr Morrison wanted to invite me to the Whitehouse is completely false. The PM never contacted me about this and I know nothing about it.”
In a further public statement, he said: “The PM never contacted me about this and I know nothing about it. As far as I’m concerned this is a baseless rumour and totally false news.
“Attempts to link this untrue story to the Royal Commission are unconscionable.”

The Royal Commission Houston refers to is the 2013-announced Royal Commission into the International Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report on 15 December 2017.
According to the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services, “The Royal Commission inquired into how allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters that occurred in an institutional context have been managed and responded to.”

Pent-up problem
Houston was investigated and censured by the Commission for covering up the paedophile past of his father, preacher Frank Houston, who molested at least nine boys, although he only publicly admitted one prior to his death in 2004.
The Commission’s findings would be grounds enough for Trump’s administration to permanently prevent Houston junior from setting foot on American soil, let alone this week with Scott Morrison.

The Commission’s report stated: “We are satisfied that, in 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston and the national executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not refer the allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston to the police.
“We consider that a conflict of interest first arose when Pastor Brian Houston decided to respond to the allegations by confronting his father while simultaneously maintaining his roles as national president (of the Assemblies of God in Australia) and senior pastor.
“The commissioners express the view that the NSW executive failed to appoint a contact person for the complainant, interview the complainant, have the state or national executive interview the alleged perpetrator, or record any of the steps it took.”

Frank Houston, a Pentecostal Christian pastor in the Assemblies of God Church in New Zealand and Australia, was originally trained by the Salvation Army before defecting from Methodism to Baptism. In 1977 Frank Houston moved his family to Sydney and founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre in Darlinghurst, which over time expanded to 20+ centres and eventually came under the leadership of his son Brian.
In 1983, the revised church, which started in the assembly hall of Baulkham Hills Public School, was renamed Hills Christian Life Centre, before merging into Hillsong Church.

Cover-up
Over the years, Frank Houston interfered with several young boys, one of whom, Brett Sengstock, told Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes TV program that he had been systematically groped and abused during a five-year period, between the ages of 7 and 12, which left him feeling “like he was murdered”.
In 1999, following a complaint by Sengstock’s mother that her son had been sexually abused, Hillsong Church investigated the allegations, many of which took place whilst Frank Houston was the leader of the Assemblies of God Church in New Zealand between Dec 1965 and June 1977.
Brian Houston, now National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia, asked his father to resign – Frank confessed, then retired on a pension – and despite investigations revealing further credible reports of Frank’s sexual abuse of at least eight other young boys, which Brian Houston and the Assemblies of God executive council were legally obligated to report to police, they chose not do so.

Another victim, known as AHA, reported to the Commission that Frank Houston, while staying with his family in 1970, would come into his room “nearly every night of the week” and sexually molest him.
The commission heard that in 2000, when AHA confronted Frank about the abuse, he was offered $10,000 in exchange for his signature on a dirty napkin at a meeting with him and a Hillsong Church elder at Thornleigh McDonalds.

Hillsong church has historically close links to the Liberal Party. For example, In 1998, Brian Houston met with then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, and most of his cabinet in Canberra to conduct prayers. In 2002, Prime Minister John Howard reciprocated the friendship by opening a new Hillsong Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills. Following that, the Liberal Party Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, addressed its 2004 and 2005 conferences.

Hillsong Church, which declares the Bible as without error and the absolute authority in matters of faith, believes wrong-doers can be forgiven for past evils if they repent and embrace their evangelical Protestantism. Followers, of which there are hundreds of millions worldwide and perhaps 100,000 in Australia, embrace baptism, charismatic gifts, divine healing, miracles and speaking in tongues.

NSW Police recently confirmed that Pastor Brian Houston is still being investigated over his suppression of an unspecified number of sex crimes against boys committed by his father Frank Houston.

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