When things go south, deny everything.
That appears to be the current strategy of Hillsong megachurch’s senior pastor and founder, Brian Houston (who has recently stepped down as Global Pastor) He has taken to Twitter and reportedly internal email groups to dismiss the existence of a $20 million lawsuit against the church, as well as The Post’s reporting on alleged misuse of tithing money by pastors at the Australia-based institution’s American branches.
Hillsong Church has been hit with a $20 million suit (that’s $20,000,000, for those who like zeroes).
According to The New York Post, Hillsong hired Sydney Christian Life Centre to develop a housing complex in Rosebery, Australia, and it did, but allegedly constructed unsafe homes—causing owners of almost 300 Sydney apartments, ranging from $440,000 and $945,000, to sue. The million dollar question is—since when are churches in the property development/landlord business? Oh right, they all are!
Hillsong Church is also facing a $20 million lawsuit in Australia. Owners of nearly 300 Sydney apartments allege Hillsong and the construction firm the denomination hired to build their housing complex made their homes structurally unsound.
“We’re worried we will find it difficult to sell our apartments,” one owner, who requested anonymity, told the Daily Telegraph of the units that were sold for between $440,000 and $945,000.
The SCLC, according to the Australian lawsuit, “breached their duties of care in causing or permitting the defective work. It is also alleged that residents were prevented from inspecting “the common property” before buying their units. Structural engineers allegedly found windows and balconies in the units were not up to code in 2019.
Hillsong argues in a counterclaim, however, that it is the construction firm, Icon Construction Australia, who are the real “wrongdoers.”
That’s not all. Hillsong’s Connecticut branch rents with the Wall Street Theater Company, and they’ve also sued the church $100,000 for unpaid rent and “immoral, oppressive and unscrupulous” acts. A source told The New York Post, “Hillsong just ghosted the theater.
When the theater sent them a bill, they responded saying they were a small not-for-profit and couldn’t pay it, and that they didn’t owe it anyways because of the pandemic.” Nice.
It was only a matter of time before there were financial ramifications, right? I mean, first, disgraced pastor Carl Lentz was allegedly ousted from his position for cheating on his wife, letting the fame get to his head, and for being an all-around d-bag. In the last few months, anonymous sources have come forward to describe the climate at Hillsong as “discriminatory, exploitative, and elitist,” eventually leading to the revelation late last year that the church has been full of “verified, widely circulated stories of inappropriate sexual behavior amongst staff/interns” for years, according to Hillsong whistleblowers. Those included, as Page Six reports, at least one high-ranking church leader who was instructed to leave after it was learned he had “multiple inappropriate sexual relationships with several female leaders and volunteers and was verbally, emotionally, and according to one woman, physically abusive in his relationships with these women.”
One lawsuit filed stateside on Jan. 20, by the Wall Street Theater Company, Inc., accuses Hillsong Connecticut of failing to pay more than $100,000 in rent and removing electronic equipment from the company’s property located at 71 Wall Street in Norwalk, Connecticut.
The complaint against Hillsong Connecticut shows that the church entered into an agreement to rent the Wall Street premises starting Sept. 20, 2019, every Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. for $7,937 each Sunday.
On Feb. 21, 2020, the agreement was amended to reflect a reduction in the rent for each Sunday to $5,935.25. Just over three weeks later, however, the coronavirus pandemic hit and restrictions were placed on religious gatherings. Hillsong Connecticut emailed the Wall Street Theater Company in May, seeking to cancel to agreement through a 120-day termination clause.
The Wall Street Theater Company alleges that since invoking the termination clause, Hillsong Connecticut has not paid the $100,899.25 billed for the period May 11, 2020 through September 8, 2020.
“Despite due demand the Defendant has failed and refused to pay the balance due of $100,899.25,” the company alleges in the lawsuit.
“The acts of the Defendant constitute violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act, … in that said actions were immoral, oppressive and unscrupulous and caused substantial injury to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit adds.
The Christian Post reached out to Hillsong Church about the lawsuit on Monday and was told it did not yet have a response to the Connecticut lawsuit.
A source told the New York Post that the church is claiming that they cannot afford to pay the rent because they are a small nonprofit organization.
It appears however that Connecticut does not have a pandemic-related moratorium on commercial rent payment.
Dale Smith, whose company provided security for Hillsong, argued that while the church might claim to be a nonprofit, he thinks they operated more like a corporation.
“It just seemed like a business, real robotic,” he told the NY Post. “Even the ones on the payroll seemed to be fighting, positioning in order to climb that ladder which, in my opinion, is not what a church is supposed to be.”
Early last month, Desiree Noel Robertson, 39, and Blaze C. Robertson, 41, were reportedly looking for new jobs at another local church after quietly leaving the church they helped found in 2016. Blaze previously worked as a creative pastor at Hillsong Church New York City. The church is now under internal investigation in the wake of former lead Pastor Carl Lentz’s firing over “leadership issues” and moral failures.”
In 2018, Brian Houston, global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, announced a split from Australia’s largest Pentecostal denomination to become a denomination of its own, citing the growing global nature of the church.
In typical fashion Houston went on the offensive regarding the suit. “If anyone out there is even interested. Hillsong is NOT being sued for 20 million dollars. This story is completely untrue,” Houston, 66, tweeted Tuesday, offering no evidence to prove the New South Wales Supreme Court suit filed by Rosebery, Australia, homeowners against a Hillsong developer does not exist.
Houston has also apparently taken up a denial-based public relations campaign via email, reportedly messaging congregants on Monday to say that former members’ accounts of pastors’ spending habits were lies.
“We are particularly grieved that, in many cases, inaccurate accounts in these stories have been reported as if they are true,” Houston allegedly wrote in the email blast, which was obtained by The Post, rehashing that the scandal-ridden megachurch knows “many of the stories circulating are not true.” The email then launches into a bulleted list of various ways the church upholds its “biblical responsibility” to be financially ethical, including such vague statements as “careless spending is not permitted” and “team salaries are moderate.”
The email ends with a reminder that Vision Sunday — a large, annual event when many congregants make donation commitments for the year (“Salvation is flowing,” a promotional trailer declares) — is “just around the corner.”
An email allegedly written by Brian Houston and then sent to Hillsong congregants on Monday.
Hillsong College -Yet another investigation
While Houston maintains that Hillsong’s financial and legal integrity are intact, the megachurch has launched an “independent and external review” regarding “issues” at the church’s eponymous college, according to an email sent to a former student and viewed by The Post.
“Following the large amount of feedback that Hillsong College received at the end of last year, I am writing to update you on the steps that the College is taking to clarify and act on this feedback,” reads the email. “Hillsong College has appointed a law firm, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, an independent external law firm to review allegations made by former students about their experiences during their time at College.”
The email goes on to request that the student participate in a “strictly confidential” interview with the lawyers.
Yolandi Bosch attended Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia. While there, she also spent time babysitting for Hillsong pastors, for which she received no pay. Bosch called the church a “cult” and described in detail ways that Hillsong attempted to control her life, including whom she dated, where she worked, and which doctor she saw. She told the Post that she and “hundreds” of other people who have experience with the church are pursuing representation because they believe the way Hillsong treated them qualifies as “industrial slave labor.” Hillsong has reportedly hired an independent law firm, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, “to review allegations made by former students about their experiences during their time at College.”
Ex-students have previously told The Post their experiences at the school were traumatizing.
“It felt like a reality show — it’s really a cult,” Sydney-based interior designer Bosch said of her experience at Hillsong College in 2012. “They convinced me to drop everything I was interested in becoming.”
An Easter service held by megachurch Hillsong in Sydney, Australia.