Vicky Arias, FISM News
Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of the Australian Parliament (MP), accused leaders of the global Hillsong Church on Thursday of tax evasion, fraud, and money laundering.
“Last year, a whistleblower provided me with financial records and board papers that show Hillsong is breaking numerous laws in Australia and around the world relating to fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion,” Wilkie said before Parliament.
Wilkie, who has previously shown opposition to Christian values and religious liberty, proceeded to reference documents provided to him by the whistleblower that allegedly revealed certain members of the founding family of the church had “enjoyed a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico using $150,000 of church money.”
The MP also claimed to have records showing that Brian Houston, the former church leader and co-founder, used “private jets like Ubers, again, all with church money.” Wilkie continued, explaining that “in one three-month period, Brian Houston’s trips cost $55,000, $52,000, $30,000, $22,000, and $20,000.”
Wilkie also called out current Hillsong leader, Phil Dooley, for “clocking up $58,000 in business-class flights for him and his daughter to Guatemala, $42,000 in business-class flights to Mexico, and $32,000 in business-class flights from Cape Town to Sydney via the U.S.”
“Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor, but these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian,” Wilkie stated.
Wilkie alleged shopping included “a $6,500 Cartier watch for [Brian Houston’s wife] Bobbie Houston, $2,500 in Louis Vuitton luggage, a $2,500 watch for Phil Dooley, two watches worth $15,000 for Joel and Julia A’Bell, shopping sprees for designer clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue and an even $16,000 for custom skateboards.”
Hillsong refutes the allegations, saying in a statement that they are “out of context.”
“The claims made in federal parliament by Mr. Andrew Wilkie are out of context and relate to untested allegations made by an employee in an ongoing legal case,” the church stated. “These allegations, made under parliamentary privilege, are in many respects wrong, and it is disappointing [Wilkie] made no effort to contact us first. If he did so we would have answered his questions and provided him with financial records to address his concerns.”
WILKIE OPPOSED TEACHING OF BIBLICAL MARRIAGE
Wilkie, a PM in the Australian government since 2010, previously opposed Australia’s Religious Discrimination Bill, which was created to “ensure Australians are protected from discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity.” Wilkie said in a speech to Parliament that the bill might, among other things, “allow faith-linked schools to teach students that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.”
Author’s Biblical Analysis:
As evidence that may prove the innocence or guilt of Hillsong continues to come out in the case, it is important to remember that, as Christians — both individually and in the church as a whole — we are called upon to be set apart in our conduct. There are many inside and outside of the church who are observing our behavior to gauge what it means to be a follower of Christ.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16