The lawyer for a whistleblower bringing a Fair Work action against the megachurch alleges a Hillsong cowboy culture. Papers lodged in the Federal Court reveal the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) began an investigation into church finances in March.
In hindsight, the once mighty Hillsong reached the peak of its influence in 2019. That year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined Hillsong founder Brian Houston onstage at the church’s annual conference. But also during that same conference, an allegedly drunk and prescription drug-addled Brian Houston ended up in the hotel room of a woman he didn’t know for 40 minutes.
Running down that Hillsong
It’s all been running down that Hillsong since then.
Houston later quit at 4am on the morning of a meeting of the church’s Australian board.
Since then, the megachurch faced inhouse allegations of a sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll ethos within the church internationally. Further, a senior church insider alleged Brian Houston knew of his father’s child sexual abuse years before he admitted to it. Houston will return to Australia in October to face charges of concealing his father’s historic child sex abuse.
In July, allegations emerged the Morrison government gifted $2 million to a faith-based ‘rehab’ facility one former inmate described as a ‘Hillsong indoctrination centre’.
Allegations of Hillsong cowboy culture
Now, the ABC reports that documents lodged in the Federal Court reveal the ACNC is examining whether the church met its compliance obligations as a registered charity.
The documents were lodged on behalf of a former Hillsong employee and whistleblower as part of her Fair Work case against the church.
Lawyers for Natalie Moses filed a 25-page claim alleging the misappropriation of church finances. Natalie Moses also alleges the church gave ‘large cash gifts’ to Hillsong founder Brian Houston and his family.
The complainant previously worked in Hillsong’s financial department. She claims Hillsong suspended her employment following her refusal to deceive the ACNC about Hillsong’s overseas activities.
Josh Bornstein from Maurice Blackburn is representing Natalie Moses in the Federal Court action. He remarked on the appearance of a Hillsong cowboy culture.
“There are very serious allegations that our client makes about Hillsong effectively misleading an investigation [by] the ACNC.
“There are concerns that Australian taxpayers are being ripped off by Hillsong.
“On top of that, [the allegations] also raise moral and ethical issues about the conduct of a religious institution and what appears to be a cowboy culture operating within that empire.”
Hillsong lawyers told the ABC the church will defend the action.
“As the matter is now before the Federal Court of Australia, it is inappropriate to make any further comment.”
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