Brian Houston says he does not know if Scott Morrison wanted him to attend a dinner with Donald Trump

Future: Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston preaches at a church event in New York. Picture: Dominic Lorimer.
Future: Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston preaches at a church event in New York. Picture: Dominic Lorimer.

HILLSONG founder Brian Houston says he does not know if Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to have him invited to a White House State dinner with President Donald Trump in September, but he wouldn't have been able to attend because he had a prior engagement.

Mr Houston turned the focus back to Mr Morrison after a radio interview on Thursday in which the high-profile evangelical leader seemed pleased by the Wall Street Journal "caring about a church pastor" in Sydney, but where he failed to settle the question which the prime minister has not denied.

"I don't know. I genuinely don't know," Mr Houston told 2GB's Ben Fordham after more than four weeks of questions about whether details of the US article are true, including that the prime minister was determined Mr Houston would attend the State dinner but the White House vetoed the idea.

"Anything's possible. I just don't know because I've never had a conversation with the prime minister about it," Mr Houston said.

"I just didn't believe it because I'd never heard anything about it. I thought it was nonsense. But then I guess the fact I didn't know anything about it doesn't tell us whether I was or wasn't invited. It's really a matter for Scott Morrison because I genuinely don't know the answer."

Mr Houston and Australian Christian Churches - Assemblies of God before 2007 - are the subject of an active police investigation into how they responded to serious child sex allegations against Mr Houston's father Frank from 1998, including that he sexually abused seven boys from as young as seven.

The church substantiated the allegations but they were not reported to police or other authorities before Frank Houston's death in 2004. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Brian Houston, then national president of Assemblies of God, had a conflict of interest in the case, and was the sole conduit of critical information between his father, a child sex victim and the church's national executive during crucial periods in 1999 and 2000.

Over to you: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is yet to answer whether he sought to have Hillsong founder Brian Houston invited to a White House State dinner with President Donald Trump in September. Picture: Dominic Lorimer.

Over to you: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is yet to answer whether he sought to have Hillsong founder Brian Houston invited to a White House State dinner with President Donald Trump in September. Picture: Dominic Lorimer.

Mr Houston denied speaking with, or exchanging text messages with Mr Morrison about the Wall StreetJournal article and its contents, and denied any knowledge of the alleged invitation attempts or speaking with the prime minister about it during a Hillsong conference in July.

He did not directly respond to Mr Fordham's invitation to send Mr Morrison a text message during the interview to clear the matter up, saying the prime minister was in parliament.

Mr Houston said he was aware of a Newcastle Herald article about a one-hour sermon by Frank Houston at a Maitland Christian church in 2004, weeks before his death, where Frank Houston singled out young "good looking" boys for attention.

Brian Houston has previously said his father "never, ever again" preached after the allegations were raised and he lost his credentials to be a pastor.

Brian Houston on Thursday questioned the authenticity of the recording referred to in the report and whether it was in 2004, but accepted it was possible after hearing his father talked about his wife Hazel's death only months earlier.

"If he did so (preached) it was certainly behind my back. My father died in 2004 and by then he had dementia to such a degree he hardly knew who he was. I'm glad I wasn't there listening to an hour of his sermon because by then he was virtually incoherent," Brian Houston said.

He questioned Maitland Christian Church pastor Bob Cotton's statements to the Herald that he and others were kept in the dark about Frank Houston's child sex offences.

"Why wasn't it made clear to everyone that your dad had confessed to abusing boys as young as seven?" Mr Fordham said, quoting sections of the Herald article citing church documents tendered to the royal commission.

The documents showed Assemblies of God pastors were only advised of "accusations" and Frank Houston's "serious moral failure", and one pastor was advised of "serious sexual misconduct" by Frank Houston. But no documents produced to the royal commission stated the allegations involved sexual abuse of children.

Mr Cotton said he was not surprised by Brian Houston's comments but the documents spoke for themselves.

Mr Houston said the Hillsong Church congregation was "aware of exactly what my father had been accused of" by 2004.

Mr Fordham questioned whether pastors in other Assemblies of God churches would knowingly allow a child sex offender to preach in church, and that it provided evidence to back Mr Cotton's statements.

"Why didn't people (in the church executive) say listen, he's a child abuser, he's a paedophile?" Mr Fordham said.

"That's a fair question and to be honest, I wish they did take a harder line," Mr Houston said. "You're telling me all sorts of information I haven't heard. The reality is Frank knew he was sacked, he knew he wasn't to preach again."

Mr Fordham said the question was whether other people knew.

"Whether they did or not it certainly wasn't my fault," Mr Houston said.

Asked if he would do "everything the same" if he had his time again, Mr Houston said "I would", including not reporting the allegations to police because the allegation against his father in 1999 was raised by a 36-year-old man "who did not want the matter reported to police".

The royal commission found Assemblies of God did not report the allegations about Frank Houston to the Commission for Children and Young People despite the commission writing to the church group in August, 2001, when Brian Houston was national president, requesting the church to report all completed investigations of child sex allegations from the previous five years.

This story Hillsong founder Brian Houston throws White House invitation question back to PM first appeared on Newcastle Herald.