Brian claims clergy privilege to prevent police investigation?

Did you know that right after the Royal Commission (RC) in 2014, Brian Houston tried to claim clergy privilege, in order to protect himself from a possible police investigation (45)? Hillsong and Australian Christian Churches (ACC) are also joining this claim.

Houstons confession comic

Did Brian not realise this undermines his testimony at the Royal Commission, his media statements and his book, “Live, Love, Lead”?

By adding a new role of Confessor to Frank, is Brian and his AOGA executives now claiming they were released from their obligation to report Frank’s crime to the NSW Police? They were released from following procedure? That is, released from not doing their job?

So, which is it Brian? You went public straight away with Frank’s confession to paedophilia and it wasn’t a cover-up? Or, we didn’t really get to know Frank’s “religious confession” to you as a member of the clergy, and you protected his confidentiality?

Did you run a proper AOGA investigation?

At the Royal Commission, Brian was trying to convince everyone that he:

  • A. Conducted a proper investigation when he confronted his father, Frank Houston, and extracted a confession about Frank’s child sexual abuse in November 1999.
    • Even though he threw away the procedure manual and improperly appointed himself as sole investigator which resulted in no formal complaint nor admission. Also, the confession Brian got of a “One-off incident” was wrong. (10, 11,12,18,19,20,23,27)
    • Even though he didn’t get all the relevant information from Ps Taylor and John McMartin about the case before he took over, and did not interview the victim AHA. (24,25,26,27)
    • Even though he ignored the advice from Ps Taylor that victim [AHA] had softened because Frank had not denied it and was thinking of legal proceedings.(26,27) 
    • Even though Brian did not inform the AOGA executive that Ps Taylor had been personally advocating for the victim, and her relevant correspondence was not tabled at the executive meeting. (18,24,25,26,27)
    • Even though the AOGA executives wrongly thought Brian was the only one who knew the identity of the victim and they relied solely on Brian’s information  (11,12,18,19)
    • Even though the AOGA and Brian handled the NZ allegations differently a year later. (9,29)
      BH: FAILED
  • B. Didn’t compromise his role as President of the Assemblies of God Australia (AOGA)
    • Even though Brian’s role should have been to ensure the AOGA followed procedure and that an independent investigation and resolution was achieved. This did not happen.   (10,11,12,39, 41)
      Even though the executive did not intervene when Brian broke procedure, was the sole AOGA executive investigator and Frank was his father. (11,12,18) 
      Even though under Brian’s watch, not-following-procedure and not ensuring legal obligations were met seemed to be accepted in the AOGA culture.  (10,11,12,14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 39, 41, 43)  
    • Even though Brian nor the AOGA protected AHA from Frank contacting AHA directly which AHA found distressing, having to confront his perpetrator. Frank was supposedly under discipline – how was this allowed to happen? Brian knew.
      BH: FAILED
       
  • C. Did not have a conflict of interest when dealing with, nor an influence on how the AOGA executive or his church dealt with Frank Houston and his child sexual abuse of victim [AHA].
    • Even though the AOGA executive admitted there was pressure due to Frank’s standing in the AOG. (11)
    • Even though Ps Taylor feared telling the AOG the identity of the perpetrator. (30).
    • Even though Ps. Taylor no longer thought the church would judge and deal with the matter fairly – as it seemed no one wanted to touch it. This was after she had handed the case over to Brian. Should she contact Andrew Evans? Ps Taylor worried about what her next step should be and felt that the burden of the crime was being put on her. BT: “If I put a foot wrong it will be my entire fault”.  She needed support and Brian was not seen as an option for her. (46)
    • Even though the victim didn’t think he’d be believed or dealt with properly as Frank was considered “royalty”. (31)
    • Even though something caused the AOGA to throw away the rule book and allow Brian, son of the perpetrator, to run the investigation, be the sole source of information to the executive, and to deal with both victim and perpetrator after. (And deal with Ps Taylor.)  (9,18, 39, 41, 43)
    • Even though something caused the AOGA to decide to keep the matter quiet, and to not permanently remove Frank’s credentials. (9, 34, 40)
    • Even though something caused the AOGA and church to actively support Brian and his family: he was regarded as a victim and they hailed his “integrity”. (32)
    •  Even though, in contrast, AHA received no support from the AOGA or Frank’s church; was not properly represented by Brian’s investigation; and, was not formally notified of the outcome, given an apology nor an offer of counselling.  [AHA] thought it had been covered-up. (14,34)
    • Even though Brian would tell the RC during questioning that certain matters were not relevant to the RC when Brian was acting in the role of a son, since the RC scope was investigating institutional responses. (Link to Brian lies to Taylor post. – Link coming -)
    • Even though Brian allowed his father (the perpetrator) to contact AHA (the victim) directly, without supervised support or protection for AHA, and this is while Frank was supposedly under discipline. This is after Brian had told the AOGA executive that AHA was so brittle. “And so he was brittle and I think because of that I didn’t see the police as an option.” (47)
    • Even though Brian said the McDonalds  meeting was between Frank and AHA and had nothing to do with the AOG, him or Hillsong, even though AHA did not want Frank contacting him or his mother. Brian, head of the AOGA,  was so busy protecting himself and Hillsong that he could not protect and support AHA.
    • Even though Brian knew Frank had a Hills CLC elder to support and attend the meeting with Frank, as a “friend”. Brian even went to the lawyers (as a son) and viewed the document that Frank wanted AHA to sign (yet still insisted it had nothing to do with him or Hillsong/Hills CLC).    (Link to Brian lies to Taylor post. – Link coming -)
    • Even though Brian expects the world to have sympathy for him because it was so difficult to confront his own father, his hero. (47)  But where was Brian’s compassion when AHA had to confront Brian’s father directly, the perpetrator?  Brian was in a position to help and support AHA, but instead put himself, Frank and his beloved Hillsong before AHA.   (Link to Brian lies to Taylor post. – Link coming -)
      BH: FAILED
       
  • D. Did not attempt to cover-up the [AHA] matter because he was so forthcoming in telling his congregations “right from the start”.
    • Even though there is such a lack of due diligence, formal processing and paperwork for something so important, that could have legal repercussions and for someone so prominent.
    • Even though there is no formal complaint nor a statement informing the victim of the outcome; (14,18)
    • Even though there is no confession from Frank; no signed admission (Hillsong elders stopped Frank from signing one); (35)
    • Even though Frank was not fired immediately and was allowed to continue as an employee of Hillsong/CLC until he “retired” in November 2000. (9,35)
    • Even though the AOGA would keep it confidential as long as Frank cooperated and unless rumours got too much. [If he had been fired and reported to police there would be no need to keep it quiet.] (29, 40)
    • Even though the Brian denied an AOG New Zealand request to make Frank’s matter public in May, 2001 (44)
    • Even though there is nothing in writing submitted to the RC to support Brian’s claim there was no cover-up and to show how his church dealt with the matter (no meeting minutes, no emails, no letters, no letter of discipline to Frank, no  apology). There is only Brian’s word that he told his church/congregations – that he was upfront right from the start, that he didn’t try to hide it.
      However, when pressed by the RC, Brian couldn’t remember what he said, to whom and when. To Ben Fordham (2GB) he noted it was a long process, but to Graham Richardson (Sky News) he noted he went public to his church/congregations right from the start! Brian’s story is not consistent.
    • Even though, on the contrary, there was a telling Minutes of a Special Elders Meeting 29/11/2000 in the “Hillsong Church Boardroom”  to discuss matters relating to the apparent moral failure by Frank Houston some 30 years ago.
      (Note: it was still “apparent”!  So what did Brian tell the congregation?)
         a. The elders accepted Frank’s retirement notice, decided Frank’s
      retirement package and decided that a simple “he’s retiring”
       
             announcement would be made to the to the church, (35, 40)

         b. Frank was not to sign an “Admission of Guilt” drafted by the AOGA (35)
         c. Hillsong/CLC would not agree to a NZ victim’s request and
             referred them back to the AOGNZ (35)

So what did Brian tell his churches when being upfront right from the start? That Frank committed a criminal offence of child sexual abuse but they decided not to report him (or Frank report himself) and he was never charged nor fired? Did Scott Morrison or other legally aware congregation members not wonder why Frank had not been charged after they were told the truth?
Maybe Brian wasn’t so upfront after all.

  • Even though AOGA ministers were not informed until over 2 years after Frank confessed, and only due to rumours. They were told only of “serious moral failure” and were instructed not to tell their congregation; (32)
  • Even though Frank and Brian did not cooperate with NZ investigations; (35,36)
  • Even though Ps Taylor thought Brian and the AOG were not dealing with it and it could be seen as a cover-up (6/2000 letter to BH); (37)
  • Even though the victim thought it was not being dealt with and they were covering it up, he never did get counselling or support from the AOGA; (34)
  • Even though Brian, the AOGA and Hillsong/CLC did not report Frank to the police and decided NOT to check their convenient legal advice about their obligation to report Frank to the police? Did Brian seek legal advice as a son or AOG executive? (What would they tell police anyway? (18)– that they didn’t have a formal complaint nor confession because they didn’t run a proper investigation?); (38)
  • Even though “Hillsong City Church” did not report Frank  to the Commission for Children and Young People in 2000. – Another failed opportunity to clarify their legal obligations. (38, 42)
  • Even though the AOGA executive were worried that if they announced Frank’s crime they may be the recipients of future legal action. (13)  
  • Even though – the most damming of all – note how differently the AOGA processed the AHA allegation (12/1999) to how they handled the NZ allegations a year later (11/2000), with the AOGNZ watching. The NZ batch could not be covered up. There was a proper investigation, Frank’s credential was permanently removed, an admission was prepared for him to sign, he retired.  (9 Vs 29)
    BH: FAILED

    And Brian is trying to convince everyone he did a good job and acted with integrity?

The message is loud and clear. If you are a victim within Hillsong or the AOGA, go to the police, not the church. They may have polished their procedures, but it is the same culture and some of the same people are running the show.

Brian Houston swearing on the bible at the Royal Commission

Brian Houston swearing on the bible at the Royal Commission.

If you did your job, Brian, ensuring the AOGA followed procedure, you would not have compromised:

  1. the AOGA’s integrity;
  2. justice for the victim;
  3. discipline of Frank Houston, repentance and restoration;
  4. support for Ps Taylor;
  5. opportunity for other victims to come forward;
  6. opportunity for parents to check with their children;
  7. the role of eldership and leadership;
  8. the biblical functioning and integrity of the church.

It is a sad day when the church needs the world’s legal system to show light on the darkness within the church.

Brian has brought shame upon the church in his mishandling of his father’s child sexual abuse and his continued public campaign to convince everyone he acted with integrity, and that his standard of leadership is to be heralded. Also complicit, are the Hillsong elders and executives who did not call out Brian in his time of weakness. Instead, they allowed Brian to act the way he did, and  publicly supported and crowed about Brian’s integrity. It begs the question, are these just “yes men” looking after their jobs?

It is also sad that many believe Brian and don’t bother to check out the evidence shown in the Royal Commission. This is a rare insight into how Hillsong operates behind the scenes. Not as transparent and noble as they make out!


Background

Brian Houston has claimed he heard Frank Houston’s confession in his capacity as a member of the clergy, hoping to attract protection from failing to inform NSW police. This would have added to Brian’s conflict of interest.

This claim was made AFTER the 2014 Royal Commission (RC) recommended Brian Houston be referred to the police for not reporting Frank’s crime, which was mandatory [1] . The RC report also submitted Brian had a conflict of interest, listing the evidence to support that view [2]

So Brian is claiming that Frank made a “religious confession”  to Brian,  “a member of the clergy in the member’s professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination concerned”.  Hence Brian “is entitled to refuse to divulge that a religious confession was made, or the contents of a religious confession made, to the person when a member of the clergy”. [3 – Evidence Act, Religious Confessions]

The implication is Brian was not obliged to tell the police about Frank’s crime, which was required by law.

However, Brian told Graham Richardson on Sky News:

right from the start, [I] talked publicly about it to the entire church, to a whole conference in the Olympic Arena there.”    Interview by Graham Richardson on Sky News (10/12/2015) [4]

So why is it OK to keep Frank’s paedophilia a secret when it comes to informing the police, AND also OK to tell the media he blabbed Frank’s secret to thousands right from the start?

Is Brian telling porkies? The term, “lawless one”, comes to mind.


Support Material

References:
1.  Case Study 18: Submissions of Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission  P94, pg.20

2.  Report of Case Study No. 18 – The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse (PDF 822 KB). (pg 32-35)

3. EVIDENCE ACT 1995 – SECT 127 Religious confessions

4. From Written Submissions for Brian Houston and Hillsong Church: wanting Clergy privilege

201410rchs-bhsubclergyprivg

Source: Royal Commission Submission, Published 2014:
Submissions of Pastor Brian Houston and Hillsong Church Par94, pg.20,

Royal Commission website (all published documents, transcripts, evidence, reports):
Case Study 18, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

5. From Written Submission on behalf of Australian Christian Churches: wanting Clergy privilege

20141010acc-submission-bh-clergyprotection

Source: Royal Commission Submission, Published 2014:
Submissions of Australian Christian Churches, (pg 8)

Royal Commission website (all published documents, transcripts, evidence, reports):
Case Study 18, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

6. But isn’t a “confession” meant to be confidential? Brian on Sky News:

Didn’t Brian tell the AOGA Frank’s confession? His church elders? The AOGNZ executive? According to his Sky News interview with Graham Richardson, Brian said:

BH: “I went straight to the board of the church, straight to the board of the denomination we’re part of. And right from the start, talked publicly about it to the entire church, to a whole conference in the Olympic Arena there. So I’ve tried, I was determined to talk about it right from the start “
Interview by Graham Richardson on Sky News (10/12/2015) 6:35

7. And what did victim [AHA] think of Brian claiming clergy privilege? It further highlights Brian’s conflict of interest!!

Excerpt from Submissions of AHA in Reply to the Submissions of Brian Houston and Hillsong Church Pg 1.:

20141010acc-submission-aha

Note: above document has been edited – only providing relevant excerpts.

Source: Royal Commission Submission,  Published October 2014:
Submissions of AHA in Reply to the Submissions of Brian Houston and Hillsong Church 
,
Royal Commission website (all published documents, transcripts, evidence, reports):
Case Study 18, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
 

8. Evidence Act 1995 Sect 127 Religious Confessions

See EVIDENCE ACT 1995 – SECT 127 Religious confessions

127 Religious confessions  

1) A person who is or was a member of the clergy of any church or religious denomination is entitled to refuse to divulge that a religious confession was made, or the contents of a religious confession made, to the person when a member of the clergy.

2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the communication involved in the religious confession was made for a criminal purpose.

3) This section applies even if an Act provides:

a) that the rules of evidence do not apply or that a person or body is not bound by the rules of evidence, or;

(b) that a person is not excused from answering any question or producing any document or other thing on the ground of privilege or any other ground.

4) In this section:

Religious Confession” means a confession made by a person to a member of the clergy in the  member’s professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination  concerned.

9. Minutes of AOGA Executive Meeting 22/12/1999 – meeting which determined the [AHA] matter – to be kept quiet, Frank not permanently removed, Brian remains conduit

19991222-nataogexecmeetingahaminutes

Excerpts From Transcripts

10. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9322, Testimony of Brian Houston agreeing his role as President of the AOGA:

Q. ..Did you understand that you, in your position as national president of the Assemblies of God, had responsibility for protecting and ensuring the proper investigation and independent resolution of allegations of child sexual abuse?
 BH-A. Yes.

11. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9267, Testimony of Keith Ainge [AOGA Executive] acknowledging they felt pressure in the AOGA executive meeting.

A. Yes. I’m not trying to justify myself, but the truth is this was a new policy. It was the first time that we’d actually acted on it, and it was done under duress in a meeting which was extremely emotional.

Q. … As a result of allegations being made against the father of Brian Houston, who was a well-known, popular Assemblies of God pastor?
KA-A. The pressure, I believe, came as a result of the fact that Frank Houston was a well-known, respected and appreciated member of the Assemblies of God, and everyone was totally shocked and devastated at the things that he’d performed.

12. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9271 , Testimony of Keith Ainge that Brian was the primary conduit of information to the AOGA executive meeting (22/12/1999).

Q. So, again, we know that Brian Houston was the primary conduit for information to the meeting, don’t we?
KA-A. That’s correct.
Q. And that after the meeting, Brian Houston is then given the task of notifying his father of the decision of the executive?
A.  That’s correct.
Q.  That decision was effectively that he would continue  to be suspended but that there would be a process of restoration adopted, subject to application?
A.  That he would be invited to apply for restoration.
Q.  And then the second part of the role for Brian Houston  was that he was to meet with the complainant and explain  the process of discipline and restoration that had been  followed; is that right?
A.  That’s correct.

13. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9283, Testimony of Keith Ainge acknowledging they were concerned that announcing Frank’s crime may attract legal action.

[The AOGA and AOGNZ] .. agreed that a statement does need to prepared for sharing individually with people who have heard of the allegations.
(See minutes of AOGA Executive Meeting 22/11/2000)

AOGA Executives Keith Ainge and John Lewis draft the statement where they described the allegation as a claim “of serious moral failure against Frank Houston”, which Frank had admitted to.

When asked at the RC “did you not mention the nature of the complaint in this draft statement?Keith Ainge answered:

KA: … I don’t have a total recollection of it, but I think there was a concern that we wanted to use terms that were not too evocative of the situation.
Q:  And why was that?
KA: Again, I can’t be absolutely – I can’t be certain in to it, but —
Q: Well, it would have been humiliating to Frank Houston, it, if it was published by the Assemblies of God he had been involved in child sexual abuse?
KA: I think also it’s worth noting that –
Q: Well, is that right or not?
KA: Oh, that is correct, yes. It’s also worth noting that the Assemblies of God does not function as a court, and to actually mention something that’s illegal, or to affirm that something has been done that is illegal, could have us to legal action from him if he determined that no actual legal action has taken place.

14. SUBMISSIONS OF COUNSEL ASSISTING THE ROYAL COMMISSION, Page 30.
AHA left out in the cold!

Further Contact with AHA

115. After the National Executive meeting of 22 December 1999, AHA did not receive any formal notification of the suspension of Frank Houston or of the offer of rehabilitation, nor was Frank Houston referred to the State or National Executive. 221 The Assemblies of God did not write to AHA to offer him support or sympathy, or to offer an apology for the abuse which one of its ministers had admitted doing to him. There was no written offer of counselling given to him by the Assemblies of God. 222

 15. SUBMISSIONS OF COUNSEL ASSISTING THE ROYAL COMMISSION, Page 44.
       Hillsong City Church did not report Frank

[Note: the registration of the church was made for “Hillsong City Church”, 08/2000. Letter from NSW commission for children & young people to Hillsong City Church. ]

6. In 2000 the Sydney Christian Life Centre did not report the suspension and withdrawal of Frank Houston’s credential as a minister to the Commission for Children and Young People as required bys. 39(1) of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW).

16. (2GB Interview with Ben Fordham 10/10/2014) – Brian says it took time to before telling church

Then immediately after the Royal Commission, in PR mode and on prime time radio, Ben Fordham asked Brian “once you realized what your father was admitting to you, did you tell the congregation, did you share that with everyone so everyone was aware what was going on?” Brian’s vague answer seemed to be justifying why he hadn’t told his congregation sooner:

BH: “Yes we did, we did. It was um it was a process and so I’m sure there will be some people who will say why didn’t you just get it out quicker and so on. But there was a lot of time just getting to the real issues, getting to the bottom of things, knowing what we were really dealing with and then we kind of rolled it out. So initially our pastors, then our staff and then like our leaders and our vision team and sort of rolled it out within the life of the church…

 17. SUBMISSIONS OF COUNSEL ASSISTING THE ROYAL COMMISSION, Page 30. Role of President of AOGA National executive

111… The National President stands at the apex of both the National Conference and the National Executive and is charged with ‘oversight of the work of the movement on behalf of the National Executive’ and to ‘carry out any other duties usual and customary as presiding officer.’219

112. It is submitted that the President is responsible for pursuing the aims of the Assemblies of God which include upholding the policies and procedures governing discipline of its ministers. The affiliated churches have an interest in seeing ministers appropriately disciplined to ensure that they do not engage in improper conduct and the movement is not undermined.

18. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9263, Testimony of Keith Ainge (AOG exec) – the AOGA executive did  not follow procedure, there was no formal complaint (though Ps Taylor had written to Ps. McMartin), they were limited to what Brian Houston told them, they thought only Brian knew the identity of the victim, did not know of Ps Taylor; Brian Houston was the conduit between the victim, perpetrator and the AOGA.

Q. All right, we’ll come to that, but I just want to go through the process that is set out in the Administration Manual. At the very start, was an appropriate state officer appointed to handle Mr [AHA]’s complaint?
KA-A. No, the first that the national executive knew of this matter was at the meeting, and at that point – at that point it was noted that there was no formal complaint and the complainant did not wish to be identified, so on that basis it was difficult to follow the process any further.
Q. Was there discussion of that process at all?
A. Oh, totally. There was extensive discussion as to happen.
Q. Let’s wind back. So you’re saying if there is no  complaint in writing, then, effectively, the whole process under the Administration Manual is put to one side?
A. I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying that at the meeting that we attended, with limited access to any advice, the decision that was arrived at was that with no complaint in writing, it was difficult to proceed, particularly since we couldn’t appoint anyone to contact the complainant because he refused to be identified.
Q. That was on the basis of what Brian Houston had told you; isn’t that right?
A. It was on the basis of what Brian Houston told us, yes.

Q. Let’s just wind back, then. You’re aware, certainly today, of a letter of 16 September 1999, that was written by Barbara Taylor to Pastor McMartin, aren’t you?

A. I’m aware of it now. I was not aware of it at the time of this meeting.  [Pg9263]

Q. Was it put to the meeting or did somebody inform the meeting that such a letter containing an allegation of child sexual abuse against Frank Houston by a named complainant had been provided to the state executive officer?
A. To the best of my knowledge, no.

No independent contact or investigator was provided for the complainant.

 Q. So after 16 September we know that no state officer was appointed to commence the complaint procedure under  these guidelines; is that right?
KA-A. That’s correct.
Q. Were you aware of whether an independent person had been appointed to liaise directly with [AHA]?
A. I was not aware of that.
Q. In fact, you weren’t aware of [AHA]’s name at all, were you?
A. No.

Q. Did you ask whether an independent person had been appointed to liaise with the complainant at the meeting on  22 December 1999?
A. I don’t recall whether that question was asked.
Q. By you or by anybody else?
A. By me or by anyone else.

Brian was the conduit:

Q. You say that the conduit for information about the allegation – so I’m just going to focus on the allegation at the moment – was Brian Houston; is that correct?
KA-A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. And I think Wayne Alcorn was aware of an allegation;  is that right?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. But effectively it was Brian Houston who communicated the allegation to the meeting?
A. To my knowledge, Wayne Alcorn had no knowledge of the  substance of the allegation.

No independent contact or investigator was provided for the complainant:

Q. Was any indication given to you that a full interview  with the complainant had taken place prior to the meeting on 22 December 1999?
A. My understanding from that meeting was that the complainant didn’t wish to be interviewed and didn’t wish to have any contact with us.
Q. And that came from Brian Houston?
A. It came from Brian Houston, yes.
Q. Was any step taken to provide contact through an independent person, namely, somebody who wasn’t related to the perpetrator, to establish that fact?
A. No.   [Pg9264]

Q. Then if I continue on with the Administration Manual, it says:
            The accused minister is interviewed by the
            State Executive or at least two delegated
            individuals from the State …
Was Frank Houston ever interviewed, before the meeting on 22 December 1999, by the state executive or delegates?
A. No. …  [Pg9264]

19. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9325, Testimony of Brian Houston – he wasn’t the only person the victim would talk to:

Q. How did you expect that to be received by the complainant?
BH-A. He – I was the only person he wanted to talk to.
Q. He had spoken to Barbara Taylor about the matter, hadn’t he?
A. Yes.
Q. So that’s not entirely correct, is it?
A. No, no, he’d spoken to Barbara Taylor; he had already spoken to his mother; he had already spoken —
Q. He had spoken to Kevin Mudford about it, hadn’t he?
A. Well, he was forced to talk to Kevin Mudford.

20. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9234, Testimony of Brian Houston – was the only person handling the matter (Oct-Dec 1999):

Q. But, sir, you would appreciate, wouldn’t you, that  throughout this period from the end of October through to December, the main person handling the matter for the  Assemblies of God was you?
A. Yes, trying to pull in all the information so I could   bring it to the Assemblies of God.
Q. And you were the son of the alleged perpetrator.
A. Yes, exactly.

21. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9328, Testimony of Brian Houston – had met with Ps Taylor:

Q. In any event, you recall that there was a meeting that you had with Barbara Taylor, don’t you?
BH-A. At the end of November?
Q. Yes.
A. Yes.
Q. And that it was on or about 28 November?
A. Yes.

22. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9330, Testimony of Brian Houston knew AHA was considering taking the matter to court. [Yet the AOGA was led to believe he AHA–

Q. So you knew by 28 November 1999 that [AHA] was considering taking the matter to court?
BH-A. Yes.

23. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9332, Testimony of Brian Houston about legal advice.

Q. Have you spoken to the lawyer concerned directly?
BH-A. I think we may have tried. I’m just looking at my associate. I think we may have tried, but the answer is no.
Q. In any event, one part of the advice was that it was likely that your father would be incarcerated for the crime?
A. I didn’t need a lawyer to tell me that. I was well aware that if this –   there was every chance he would end up in prison.
Q. Were you also given advice about the likelihood of civil proceedings succeeding if [AHA] was to go ahead?
A. I can’t remember, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

24. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9332, Testimony of Brian Houston – he had received Ps Taylor’s letter 29/11/1999.   This letter is below (37).

Q. I just want to deal with the calls, … but do you recall that this is a letter that Pastor Taylor wrote to you dated 29 November?
BH-A. Okay.
Q. Do you remember receiving that letter?
A. Yes, I’m reading it.

25. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9340, Testimony of Brian Houston- thinks AHA did not want to go public or be investigated by civil or church authorities (which contradicts what Ps Taylor advice). Brian says he did not directly contact the victim during his investigation prior to the AOGA meeting. [Brian may have mixed up the timing. Even though, it still shows his poor handling of the investigation.]

Q. Are you saying that the first contact you had directly with [AHA] after you first came to know of the allegations was after the national executive meeting?
A. As far as I can recall.
Q. And you had no contact with him prior to that?
A. No. I think  both ways, but I think there were some attempts to connect, but it didn’t happen.
Q. You say that in that telephone call, [AHA] said, “I don’t want to go public. I don’t want to go to the police. I don’t want my identity public.”
A. Yes.

Q. Did you suggest to [AHA] that there may have been a way in which to protect his identity and still be able to speak with the police
A. Look, I can’t really remember that. I do remember that – the tone of what we have heard here, that he was extremely brittle, that he was adamant that he did not want his name exposed; that he did not want to be investigated  by either the civil authorities or the church authorities was exactly what I heard in that conversation. So my  actions from there, genuinely, I thought I was being  sensitive to his wishes.

26. Ps Barbara Taylor’s Notes of her meeting with John McMartion and Brian Houston 28/11/1999 [AHA] is considering going to court:

19991128-acc-0006-001-0010_r-taylorbrianmcmartinmeetsummary

27. Letter from Ps Barbara Taylor to Brian Houston 29/11/1999 

  • [AHA] has softened, relieved Frank has not denied, is considering legal proceedings

 19991129-acc-0006-001taylortobhoustonreahasoftenedskglegal

28. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9342, Testimony of Brian Houston – responding to the idea that AHA thought Brian was defensive about his father:

Q. Do you think it is likely that your compassion towards your father was interpreted as defensive by [AHA]?
A. I think so, maybe. I think maybe that it is an interpretation.

29. Excerpt from 22/11/2000 Minutes AOGA Executive Meeting to determine the matter of fresh New Zealand allegations of child sexual abuse by Frank Houston.
Note: Frank’s credentials had not been permanently removed a year after the AHA matter, and Frank’s situation would be made known to the AOGA ministers if Frank failed to comply with the total withdrawal from ministry.  Does this sound like Brian has told thousands of people that his father committed child sexual abuse?:

20001122aogameetingexcerpt

30. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript87/Pg.9186 Ps. Taylor worried about going to Brian Houston, son of perpetrator.

Q. You explained to counsel assisting earlier that the  reason it was decided not to go to Brian Houston at that  time, November 1998, was because it was Brian’s father, it  was a one-off case to go on —
A. Yes.
Q. — and that Frank Houston was loved by everybody?
A. Yes, and I was afraid that if we didn’t have enough   proof and there was some kind of litigation, Kevin and  I would be in a bad position, of libel.

31. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript86/Pg.9067,  Testimony of [AHA] victim (note [AHA] was 7 years old when the abuse first started), thought Houstons like royalty:

[AHA]:  …. It was only on or  about 1978, when I was about 16 years old, that I told my mother about the abuse. My mother was still heavily involved in the church at that time and I observed that it was difficult for her to accept what I told her. All of her friends were involved in the church and the Houstons were considered to be almost like royalty in those circles. Pastor Frank was a very popular character and everyone wanted to go to his church in those days.   

32. Excerpt from 24/12/2001 Confidential Letter from John Lewis, AOGA to to all Ordained and Probationary Ministers of the Assemblies about Frank Houston
See Royal Commission 03: Review of Letter From AOG to All Ministers – Damage Control

20011224-aoga-to-miisters-r

33. Excerpt from 21/12/2002 Confidential Letter from Wayne Hughes AOGNZ, on behalf of the Executive Presbytery, to all Ordained and Probationary Ministers of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand

20021221-aognz-to-ministers

34. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript86/Pg.9072, from AHA about how he felt poorly done by the AOGA and Brian Houston:

  I felt very isolated when my story first started to come out and the church community made me feel like I was the problem. No-one believed my story and others put pressure on me to keep my mouth shut. I felt that the church’s response was completely inadequate, and I have received absolutely no support, no counselling, apology or acknowledgment of the abuse. I believe that Brian Houston and other elders of the Hillsong Church kept Pastor Frank’s history as quiet as they could, and they have not been held accountable for how they have handled my allegation.

35. Excerpt from 29/11/2000 Minutes of Special Elders Meeting at “Boardroom of Hillsong Church”  –  Frank retires quietly, Hillsong instructs Frank not to sign admission

20001129-eldersmeetinghills

36. Excerpt from 10/09/2002 Letter from Brian Houston to Wayne Hughes, AOGNZ  –  don’t involve me

Dear Wayne,
The correspondence I received from you regarding AHG I should be sent directly to my parents. I am not and do not intend to become a mediator or family representative in these issues.

37. Excerpt from 26/06/2000 Letter from Barbara Taylor to Pastor Brian Houston– she thinks he  is not dealing with AHA matter

20000626-taylor-to-brianhou

38. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 –
The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse – conflict of interest, not following procedure.

When allegations about Mr Frank Houston’s abuse of AHA emerged in 1999, Pastor Brian Houston was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia. He confronted his father, who confessed to the abuse. Pastor Brian Houston then called a Special Executive Meeting of the National Executive, which Pastor Brian Houston attended. Although Pastor Brian Houston relinquished the position of Chair at the meeting, he remained present while the National Executive discussed the allegations and decided on disciplinary action for Mr Frank Houston.

In handling AHA’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston and Mr Frank Houston’s admission, the New South Wales State Executive (and, separately, the National Executive) did not follow its Complaints Procedure set out in the Administration Manual. The New South Wales Executive failed to:

  1. appoint a contact person for the complainant
  2. interview the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations
  3. have the State Executive or National Executive interview the alleged perpetrator
  4. record any of the steps it took.

In 2000, neither Hillsong Church nor its predecessors, Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre, reported the suspension and subsequent withdrawal of Mr Frank Houston’s credential as a minister to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, as required by section 39(1) of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW).

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.

In 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston had a conflict of interest in assuming responsibility for dealing with AHA’s allegations because he was both the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and the son of Mr Frank Houston, the alleged perpetrator.

In 1999, members of the National Executive who attended the Special Executive Meeting of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not follow the National Executive’s policy for handling allegations of child sexual abuse against pastors and failed to recognise and respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict of interest.

 39. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – No official discipline document from Brian Houston nor AOGA. pg. 28

When questioned about whether there was a formal document that exists for the suspension of Mr Frank Houston’s credential, Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that it ‘possibly’ does not exist.148 He said that, in 1999, ‘there possibly [was] a requirement’ for the suspension to be formalised into a written notice, but, in respect of recording Mr Frank Houston’s suspension in a written notice, he said he ‘failed to do so’.149

Pastor Brian Houston and the Australian Christian Churches provided no written evidence recording the suspension of Mr Frank Houston’s credential to the Royal Commission.

Pastor McMartin told the Royal Commission that when he suspends the credential of a pastor his process includes informing the pastor of the suspension and confirming this in an email. The email is the written document that is kept in the New South Wales State Executive’s files. He said that the New South Wales State Executive then investigates, and any suspension of credentials requires the permission of the National President.150

40. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – From the RC report – Frank allowed to publicly and quietly resign. pg. 30

Despite having knowledge that Mr Frank Houston admitted to sexually abusing AHA, the National Executive allowed Mr Frank Houston to publicly resign, without damage to his reputation or the reputation of Hillsong Church.

41. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – From the RC report – AOGA and AOGNSW did not follow procedure. pg. 30

We conclude that, in handling AHA’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston, the New South Wales State Executive and, separately, the National Executive did not follow its Complaints Procedure as set out in its Administration Manual by failing to:
• appoint a contact person for the complainant
• interview the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations
• have the State Executive or National Executive interview the alleged perpetrator
• record any of the steps it took.

42. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – From the RC report – “Hillsong City Church” did not report Frank Houston to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People. pg. 31

On 7 August 2000, the [New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People] CCYP sent a letter to the Business Manager at Hillsong City Church acknowledging Hillsong City Church’s registration for a Working with Children Check. The letter stated that ‘[I]t is important to remember that any completed relevant disciplinary proceedings must be reported to the [CCYP]’.172

The requirement applied to all disciplinary proceedings, including those completed in the five years before the commencement of the Act in 2000.
At the time the letter was sent, Pastor Brian Houston was the Senior Pastor of both Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre. Although Mr Frank Houston had resigned from his role as Senior Pastor of Sydney Christian Life Centre, he was still employed by Sydney Christian Life Centre with ‘the idea that he was going to be an itinerant’.173

Counsel for Hillsong Church stated that neither Hillsong Church nor its predecessors (Sydney Christian Life Centre or Hills Christian Life Centre) reported any disciplinary proceedings against  Mr Frank Houston to the CCYP. 174
In evidence given to the Royal Commission, Mr Aghajanian, the Business Manager of Hillsong Church, accepted that no report was made to the CCYP175 because:

the matter was overlooked due to a lack of understanding at the time in the context of complying with the comprehensive legislative child protection regime that came into force in and around the year 2000.17

43. 2015 Report of Case Study No. 18 – From the RC report – the AOGA failed to respond to Brian Houston’s conflict of interest. pg. 35, 36

The evidence given to the Royal Commission shows that the National Executive departed from the policies and procedures set out in the Administration Manual, which should have governed the discipline of Mr Frank Houston. The National Executive:

• did not appoint an independent contact person to communicate the disciplinary process  to AHA and Mr Frank Houston
• did not conduct a full interview with AHA to fully record his allegations
• allowed the interview with Mr Frank Houston to be conducted by Pastor Brian Houston  and not the New South Wales State Executive or at least two delegated individuals from  the State and/or District Executives.

The departure from the Administration Manual was accepted by pastors Ainge, McMartin and  Brian Houston.197

We are satisfied a conflict of interest existed because Pastor Brian Houston was both National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and Mr Frank Houston’s son.

Pastor Brian Houston gave evidence that his presence at the Special Executive Meeting was not intended to influence the National Executive to act contrary to the Administration Manual.198  Despite not intending to influence the decisions made at the Special Executive Meeting, there remained a perception of a potential conflict of interest because of Pastor Brian Houston’s personal relationship with Mr Frank Houston.

We conclude that in 1999 members of the National Executive who attended the Special Executive Meeting did not follow their own policy, the Administration Manual, for handling allegations against pastors and ministers, and failed to recognise and respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict  of interest.

44. Brian Houston denies AOG New Zealand request (2001/5/9) to announce Frank’s failure.  BH: We are not planning to make a public announcement over here.

2001nzaogasksbhtopublishfhm

45. 2014 Royal Commission Submission immediately following the hearing, p. 25 appropriate for Brian Houston’s conduct to be referred to the NSW police for further investigation

94. Pastor Brian Houston gave evidence that in November 1999 Frank Houston told him that he had ‘fondled’ the genitals of a child.166 The indecent assault of a child contrary to s. 81 of the Crimes  Ac was in 1999 a ‘serious offence’ as defined in s. 311 of the Crimes Act. Frank Houston’s  admission to the criminal offenc45. e was information which might be of material assistance in  ensuring a conviction against Frank Houston and that information was not passed to the New  South Wales Police by Pastor Brian Houston. As that information may relate to contravention  of a law of New South Wales it is submitted it is appropriate to refer Pastor Brian Houston’s  conduct to the New South Wales Police Commissioner pursuant to s. 6P(l) of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) for further investigation.

46.  Discussion notes made by Barbara Taylor around 21/12/1999  – highlights how she was feeling about the AHA matter at the time. [It is not clear if the conversation ever did happen with John McMartin (NSW AOG executive)]

19991221-btaylor-notesforjm

47. News.com article pre-view of Channel 9’s Inside Story  – Brian Houston speaks out on dealing with Hillsong’s nasty secret  (as at 13/2/2016)

Brian Houston speaks out on dealing with Hillsong’s nasty secret

[Image- Shattered: Brian Houston has relived the day he found out his father’s awful secret. Picture: Supplied   Debbie Schipp news.com.au]

HILLSONG Church founder and leader Brian Houston has relived the day he discovered Hillsong’s nasty secret — that his father was a paedophile — and has again defended his decision not to tell police about it.

Houston, 61, speaks in detail about his actions on that day, why he did not report his father, and how his struggle with the revelation saw him spiral into depression and sleeping pill dependency.

“He was a paedophile. My dad was a paedophile. I can say it now. I have sort of come to grips with it now. But I do sort of find myself carrying the can for stuff that had nothing to do with me,” Brian Houston tells Inside Story in an interview to air on Thursday night.

This was not my crime. I didn’t do this. I hate paedophilia. And I mean it. I hate paedophilia with a passion.”

Houston’s father, William Francis ‘Frank’ Houston, served as a pastor for his church for more than two decades but in 2000 confessed to sexually abusing a boy in New Zealand 30 years earlier.

Brian Houston, then a pastor with Hills Christian Life Centre, dismissed his father immediately from the church, and by 2007 more claims against his father had emerged.

Hillsong was founded by Brian Houston in 2002.

Frank Houston died in 2004. In 2014, Brian Houston admitted to a Sydney hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that his father was guilty of other cases of sexual abuse against children.

Reliving the day he found out the awful truth, Brian Houston says his heart shattered.

“I was meeting with one of my colleagues and he told me someone had rung into the Church office and made a complaint that, 30 years before, my father had abused a boy,” he says.

“At first I thought, ‘That’s immoral.’ Within a split second I thought, ‘That’s criminal.’ And I was just stunned, shattered.”

Brian Houston’s wife, Bobbie, tells of Brian taking her to lunch in Sydney, saying he had “something terrible” to tell her.

“My heart sunk — I thought he was going to tell me he had an affair — which now is almost laughable — but he told me. I don’t remember his words. I just know I was stunned. I was stunned,” she says.

[Image – “I was stunned,” says Bobbie Houston, above left, pictured with husband Brian, of the day he shared his father’s ugly revelation. Picture: Supplied by Channel Nine S ource:Supplied]

Recounting his struggle to deal with the truth about his father, Brian Houston says “the dad that I knew, right up to really his dying day, was a totally different person than what now the world knows was an evil side of him”.

“I was never at any time in any way exposed to that, so it’s still hard to reconcile.

“At first I felt very sad and very disappointed, and obviously I felt terribly sad for the victim, because there’s no doubt about it, my father’s violated him and done irreparable damage to his life.

I felt it was my moral duty to face up to it with my own father. Hopefully anyone who is slightly human can think about that.”

In 2015 the Royal Commission found Brian Houston had failed to alert the police about allegations his father had sexually assaulted children, and had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the accusations.

Brian Houston had previously told the Commission he did not go to police because “rightly or wrongly I genuinely believed that I would be pre-empting the victim if I were to just call the police at that point”.

[Image – “What we didn’t do is report it to police.” Brian Houston, son of Hillsong founder Frank Houston, is surrounded by media following his 2014 appearance at a Royal Commission into child abuse. Picture: David MoirSource:News Corp Australia]

“I had to confront my own father — my hero — we didn’t cover it up.

“We did tell people straight away. We did take his credentials away. He never did preach again and we did oversee and ensure that he was never put in a position to be close to kids to be able to do that again.

“What we didn’t do is report it to the police.

“When he (the victim) came forward he was 36 or 37 years old. And he was very adamant he didn’t want to involve the police. He didn’t want the church authorities involved, or the police authorities involved.

And so he was brittle and I think because of that I didn’t see the police as an option.”

Brian Houston concedes the true extent of this father’s crimes may have gone with Frank Houston to his grave.

“Of course it’s come out since then (the initial complaint) that there were others as well.

“And I don’t think we know to this day the full extent of it — I don’t know the full extent of it — I think I would be aware of about six, but listen, I have no idea — it could be much bigger than that, I just don’t know.”

Inside Story host Leila McKinnon says the comments are part of a wide-ranging interview in which “nothing was off limits” with Brian Houston’s and his wife.

[Image. “It’s not a cult”: Houston preaches to his flock. Picture: Supplied by Channel NineSource:Supplied]

It encompasses the rise of Hillsong — a phenomenon that began in Sydney’s Hills district and, more than 30 years on, has a presence in 15 countries, and asks questions about its finances, its converts, its success and its beliefs — including claims it’s a cult (to which Houston responds: “Cults hold people against their will, hold their minds, try to divide families those sorts of things … at Hillsong. People come, people go — no one has to do anything.”)

McKinnon says: “All the questions and scandals were addressed, and I think he (Houston) has answered in an upfront way, and from here we have left it for people to make up their own minds.”

“The fact is they (the Houstons) haven’t done a lot of media — they largely speak to their own congregations — which means this may be a side to them we haven’t seen before,” she said.

Inside Story. Thursday, 7.30pm, Nine

48. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9275, Testimony of Keith Ainge (AOGA executive) talking about Brian’s role in why the AOGA did not go to the police.

 Q. And that you were relying on what Brian Houston said  to you about the complainant not wanting it to go to the police; is that correct?
KA- A. Correct.
Q. And you had not had the matter assessed by an independent person?
A. That’s correct.
Q. And you had not had an independent person appointed to  deal with the complainant?
A. That’s correct.
Q. On that basis, you determined that there was no need  to refer the complaint to the police?
A. That’s correct

49. Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript89/Pg.9391, Testimony of Brian Houston talking about his professional capacity when confronting Frank..

Q.   You have just raised it now, and I want to clarify  something.  You were acting in your professional capacity  during that meeting?
A.   Yes.
Q.   And you don’t believe today, looking back on it, that your ability to act professionally was compromised by your  relationship to your father?
A.   No, because I acted very professionally.  I followed it through.  I looked him in the eye.  I asked him if he  had done these things.  He admitted he had.  He went into some detail about what that constituted.  I told him what  I was going to have to do, that I was going to have to  suspend him and that I would be taking it to the national  executive.  So I feel quite – quite like I was responsible  and I fulfilled my responsibility.
Q.   Did you make file notes of the conversation?
A.   At the time I probably did.  But do I have file notes  now?  No.



Categories: Hillsong

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: