In NSW Parliament, on 24 September 2019, David Shoebridge stated (23:52):
On 23 October last year I spoke in this place about the repeated sexual abuse of a boy by Frank Houston in Sydney in the 1970s. On that occasion I referred to this boy has AHA as he was referred to in the Royal Commission. That boy is now a man called Brett Sengstock, a man who broke his silence to call publicly for justice; a brave man who deserves justice. The man who sexually assaulted Brett was Frank Houston, often known as the father of Hillsong, a serial paedophile. His son Brian Houston is the current leader of the Hillsong Church and best friend of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Our Prime Minister is so enamoured of Brian Houston that he asked for him to be part of Australia’s delegation to the United States, only to be refused by the Trump administration.
Brian Houston and Hillsong’s response to the royal commission’s damning findings regarding the church, included the following:
This Royal Commission did not directly involve Hillsong Church. The abuse committed by the late Frank Houston, the father of our senior pastor Brian Houston, occurred many years before Hillsong church existed, when he was a credentialed Assemblies of God minister in New Zealand.
This was also their legal defence against the claims from Brett Sengstock for compensation. This church, whose so-called “love offerings” for visiting pastors can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each Sunday, avoided paying fair compensation to Brett on a legal technicality.
These “love offerings” are part of what make this brand of Pentecostalism so lucrative. While a pastor cannot take money from their own church they can visit a neighbouring church and receive direct love offerings in cash or by cheque. This money will often be funnelled to a “public benevolent institution” that the pastor has registered in his or her name. This then pays them a handsome tax free wage and fringe benefits. In short, these “love offerings” are a con. Hillsong did eventually give some money to Brett for his damaged life and repeated assaults. He was promised a mere $10,000 hush payment at Thornleigh McDonald’s by Frank Houston and Nabi Saleh. Even that cash was forthcoming only after a call with Brian Houston. Brett’s testimony to the Royal Commission about this is illuminating. He said:
About two months after my meeting with Pastor Frank at McDonalds, I telephoned Brian Houston as I had not yet received any money from Pastor Frank. We had a conversation to the following effect:
Me: “What’s happening with the payment I was promised? I agreed to forgive your father.”
Brian: “Yes, ok, I’ll get the money to you. There’s no problem … You know, it’s your fault all of this happened. You tempted my father.”
When Brett finally received a cheque from Hillsong there was no note from Brian, no apology, no compassion. There is a clear continuity in leadership from Frank to Brian of this church. In fact, the church leadership who failed to report Frank’s abuse to the police despite holding numerous meetings to discuss the extent of his abuse in Australia and New Zealand, continue to lead the church. The Hillsong Church eventually stripped Frank Houston of his credentials but it allowed him to retire on a generous pension and under a cloak of secrecy about his sexual offending. It has never publicly referred to the assaults on Brett. Its only statement referred to:
… claims of a serious moral failure against Frank Houston. The incidents that have been investigated happened more than 30 years ago and Frank has admitted to the failure with great remorse.
The church has since falsely claimed that Frank did not preach again after this. This claim is clearly incorrect. I am aware of multiple occasions in which he was a visiting pastor at affiliated churches, with unhindered access to church families and their children. In this role he continued to receive so-called love offerings.
Brett deserves so much more than this cold, brutal dismissal from Hillsong. This church, and its significant wealth, was built on the preaching of Frank Houston, whose violence and disregard for Brett does not seem to trouble Frank’s son and the current church leader. A church that reaps millions of dollars in tax-free love offerings cannot find the compassion or decency to pay Brett fair compensation for the harm done to him. Whatever the legalities, this is morally corrupt.
I will finish by placing on the record what Brett wanted to tell his elected representatives about Scott Morrison’s invitation to Brian Houston:
It’s a slap in the face for sexual abuse victims. It’s a slap in the face to the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse, and it’s a slap in the face to the Australian Laws. It makes Mr Morrison’s apology to sexual abuse victims invalid.