The founder of the megachurch Hillsong has been charged with covering up his late father’s child sexual abuse offenses.
Police in New South Wales, Australia, served 67-year-old Brian Houston Thursday with a charge of concealing a serious indictable offense, and he is expected to appear in court in October. Their investigation into the matter began in 2019 after reports that Houston had concealed information relating to Frank Houston’s alleged sexual abuse against children, police said.
“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 police statement reads.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the pastor denied the charge.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised the Republican Party on Wednesday for being “delinquent in embracing the science that people need be vaccinated.” Answering a follow-up question of whether Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, is a “moron,” she added, “I said in my earlier comments, ‘science, science, science, and science.’ On almost any subject you can name, science is the answer.”
While the speaker’s second answer failed to exactly answer the question asked, her comments are troubling on a couple of levels. One of them is the absence of specific scientific data, derived from substantive research, to back up her pronouncements. Of course, her lack of data does not mean there necessarily is none available, but it’s troubling the speaker didn’t feel any apparent need to include data in order to speak authoritatively about “the Science.”
This is the second — and more important — way her comments are troubling. “The Science,” regardless of the fact that it is so vaguely defined, apparently speaks with such universal authority (“on almost any subject you can name”) that we can deduce all manner of national policy from its ineffable pronouncements.
Years after the Catholic Church was found to have systematically harbored and protected child-sex abusers while punishing victims for seeking justice for their horrific ordeals, a new feature-length Vice TV documentary sets its sights on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Aaron Kaufman’s film Crusaders—released as part of Vice TV’s “Vice Versa” nonfiction series—eviscerates the Jehovah’s Witness faith in which he was raised, giving a public platform for former members to speak out about the scourge of pedophilia within the church, and about the elders who are committed to keeping it a secret.
Premiering on Vice TV on July 28, Crusaders builds upon Douglas Quenqua’s 2019 Atlantic article about a secret database of thousands of Jehovah’s Witness child-sex offenders that’s been assembled, and concealed from prying eyes, by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that governs the church. This damning list of molesters was created on March 14, 1997, when—in response to prior whistleblower complaints—a questionnaire was sent to all 10,000 nationwide congregations asking members if they suspected any fellow Witnesses of being a pedophilic predator. The church received information on many monsters in its midst, although the precise number of names remains unknown.
Most of those individuals’ identities are also a mystery—but not all of them. That’s because, as Crusaders reveals, two ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (who in Kaufman’s film go by “Judas” and “Jezebel”) broke into a local Massachusetts headquarters and stole some of those incriminating files. Moreover, they leaked one document on Reddit, and then sent many more to a kindred ex-Jehovah’s Witness activist named Mark O’Donnell (who operated online under the alias “John Redwood”). This, in turn, led to Quenqua’s article, which made national headlines and shined an accusatory national spotlight on Jehovah’s Witnesses, who didn’t take too kindly to being outed as an organization that, in principle, condemned child abusers, but in practice made sure to keep their crimes under wraps, lest the faith get a black eye as a haven for the worst of the worst.
Crusaders works hard to slam Jehovah’s Witnesses, which also entails examining the belief systems and control mechanisms used by the religion to manipulate and dominate its adherents. The core notion embraced by Jehovah’s Witnesses is that Armageddon is imminent, and that the only way to be saved from a terrible end-times death is to abide by their tenets, which are dispensed by the Watch Tower Governing Body—a ruling council of male elders who function as God’s Earthly conduits. By toeing the line that they set forth, Witnesses will be granted access to the New System, a post-apocalypse paradise where they can begin their real lives, as opposed to their current New System-prologue existences in the here and now. Follow the rules and you’re golden; disobey—or even question—them, and you risk excommunication from friends, family, and the only community you’ve ever known.
Churches have always been tasked with bringing the word of God to the masses. Megachurches are the logical endpoint of that line of thought, and there are few churches more mega than Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. As the Indianapolis Star tells us, Osteen is a charismatic televangelist who took over the non-denominational Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, from his father, John. Young Joel was initially reluctant to join the family business, but his Southern Baptist dad managed to persuade him to give preaching a go in 1999 … and passed away just six days later, leaving Osteen in charge.
And take charge he did. By 2003, Lakewood Church moved its operations to the Compaq Center, the former home of Houston Rockets. The massive arena church started hosting televised services, through which Osteen reaches millions of viewers on a weekly basis. These days, Lakewood Church boasts over 40,000 members. Osteen also tours the nation with his “A Night of Hope” worship events, and has written several best-selling books.
Now, the world has seen more than its share of televangelists who have been anything but holy. Compared to some of them, Osteen has managed to keep himself relatively free of scandals and suspicious antics. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone considers him to be squeaky clean. Osteen certainly has plenty of critics, who have been quick to point out that the powerful preacher man is not without his controversies. Today, we’ll take a look at the troubled history of Joel Osteen.
Normally an annual gathering of British eccentrics marking the midsummer at one of the world’s most ancient sites, police descended on Stonehenge Monday morning to break up a meeting that contravened the government’s coronavirus lockdown regulations.
Police officers physically removed celebrants as they dispersed a crowd at the world-famous Stonehenge site, a Bronze Age UNESCO World Heritage Site formed of circles of enormous standing stones. Thought to be at least 4,000 years old, the stones are so arranged as to align with the rising sun on the morning of Summer Solstice — today.
The stones have major significance for British people generally, for world history, but also for British counter-cultural groups including Pagans and Druids, who celebrate simulacrums of pre-Christian festivals at Stonehenge annually.
The moment that local governments in the Western world began to issue guidance or full-on mandates for religious gatherings in the early days of the pandemic, many were concerned that society had stepped onto a slippery slope.
Fast-forward 15 months later, and we’re seeing pastors arrested in front of their children after their “underground” church services were discovered by a police helicopter.
This is the stuff of tyranny and totalitarianism, not Western-style democracy. Yet here we are.
This week, Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church was arrested outside his home as his distressed children cried, all for holding a church service discovered the day before by a police helicopter.