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Australian police accused Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston of concealing the sexual abuse of a young boy.
A government report in 2015 previously found that Houston failed to contact police after his father told him he had sexually abused a boy.
Houston has denied the charges, saying they come as a "shock" to him.
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, said 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."
Houston and his father, Frank Houston, founded two churches in 1977 and 1983 that later merged and became Hillsong Church.
The 2015 Australian government report alleged that Frank Houston sexually abused a 7-year-old boy while staying with the boy's family in 1969 and 1970, and that Brian Houston learned about the alleged abuse in 1999 and "confronted his father, who confessed to the abuse."
The report said that Brian Houston called an executive meeting with church leadership, but never referred those allegations to the police.
The church also failed to follow its own policies for reporting and investigating child abuse allegations, including interviewing the child and interviewing the perpetrator, the report said.
The report also alleged that Brian Houston had a "conflict of interest" in handling the child abuse allegations, given that he was Frank Houston's son and also the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.
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 Bieber. In Nov. 2020, celebrity pastor Carl Lentz was fired after admitting to being "unfaithful" with his wife.
Read the original article on Insider