How will Scott Morrison respond to allegations against Brian Houston?

How Scott Morrison responds to allegations against Brian Houston could be Australia’s clincher

Houston

Hillsong founder, Brian Houston was today charged with concealing information about child sex offences following a two year probe into his late father, Frank.

According to police, Houston, 67, failed to come forward with knowledge of his father’s alleged abuse on a young male in the 1970s.

“Police will allege in court the man 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,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.

The high-profile pastor’s lawyers were smacked with a notice to appear before a Sydney magistrate at the Downing Centre on October 5, meaning he will need to leave his home in the United States where he’s resided for several months throughout the pandemic. The investigation has been underway since 2019.

If found guilty, Houston could face heavy penalties including jail time. If found guilty, he could also significantly hinder Scott Morrison’s chances of winning the next election, whose longstanding esteem for Houston has never been a secret.

Indeed, Morrison credited Houston as being a key spiritual mentor, thanking the “dedicated church leader” in his first speech to Parliament in 2008.

“Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman,” Morrison said.

Morrison and his family are regular churchgoers, attending the opening session of the Hillsong annual conference shortly after the May federal election, where Morrison called for more love and prayer to embody “the amazing love of God”.

Despite knowing about the investigation into Houston, Morrison has never sought to distance himself. Controversially, he even went so far as to invite Houston to a White House dinner during the Trump administration, though he tried to play it down when media scrutiny ramped up.

At the time, he refused to address the concerns Australians had about allegations of sexual abuse concealment outstanding against the pastor.

“I’ve known Brian for a long time and Hillsong church has a very big network of churches all across the United States, and the ministry, when it comes to the music and so many other things have been very big – it’s probably the single largest church organisation that is known in the United States,” he said.

“All I know is that they’re a very large and very well-attended and well-supported organisation here in Australia, and, you know, they’re very well known in the United States, so well known that Brian was actually at the White House a few months after I was, so the president obviously didn’t have an issue with it, and that’s what I think that’s where the matter rests,” the Prime Minister added.

But the matter didn’t rest there, as Scott Morrison knew all too well.

He knew that he was playing with fire by maintaining his relationship with a ticking time bomb like Houston. He knew that where there’s smoke there’s often fire, and allegations of such gravity rarely fade into oblivion. He knew all of this, and yet he made a deliberate choice.

Why? Because at the heart of it, Scott Morrison’s faith is his guiding force in life, and it’s where his political cunning comes unstuck.

Speaking out against Brian Houston might have been the smart, political thing to do, but Morrison couldn’t take the leap. Nor, I expect, will he ever. To do so, would be to betray his church and his deep, unshakeable evangelism. The reward (his prime ministership) is not worth the risk.

In the coming days, following ongoing reports against Houston coming to the fore, Morrison will be forced to speak. If he condemns his mentor unreservedly, I will be the first to bow my head and admit I was wrong.

And I hope, with every fibre of my being, that’s the case.

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