After numerous delays, the trial of former megachurch pastor Brian Houston is underway in Australia, as Houston defends the charge that he intentionally covered up the child sex abuse offenses of his late father, Frank Houston, who was also the megachurch pastor who gave the younger Houston his first opportunities in church leadership.
Houston has pleaded not guilty to one charge of concealing the serious indictable offense of another person. If convicted, he could face up to five years behind bars.
The court is seeking to prove that from 1999 to 2004, Houston willfully covered up the abuses of his father, only disclosing information that could aid in a prosecution after his father had died.
According to NZ Harold, the fact that Houston had knowledge of the sexual abuse is not in question. Instead, Houston’s defense rests on the fact that he had a “reasonable excuse” not to report it, as Houston claims that the abuse survivor did not want to go to the police.
“The prosecution case is that he didn’t report not because of what the complainant wanted but because of other reasons … The primary prosecution case is the reason he didn’t report it was to protect his father and the church,” said Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison.
The abuse survivor, Brett Sengstock, was allegedly victimized as a child by the elder Houston on more than one occasion in the 1970s. In one such instance, Sengstock alleged that Frank Houston exposed himself to him, masturbating in front of him.
After this encounter, Sengstock told his mother what had happened.
However, Sengstock was discouraged from reporting the abuse by his mother and other family members, who allegedly told him that a legal dispute would reflect poorly on Christians in the public square. Rather, the matter should be settled outside of courts.
Sengstock told the court that he felt “indoctrinated” by the church, which contributed to his years-long silence regarding abuse.
Sengstock further alleged that, sometime in the late 1990s, he agreed to “forgive” the elder Houston in exchange for $10,000, codifying the agreement by signing a dirty napkin at a McDonalds where he had agreed to meet with Frank Houston.