Former Hillsong Employee Alleges Church Misled Donors, Evaded Taxes
Natalie Moses, former fundraising and governance coordinator for Hillsong Church, is alleging in a lawsuit that the church has misled donors, misappropriated funds, and evaded taxes, according to ABC News Investigates.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) launched an investigation into Hillsong Church in March to examine its compliance with regulations as a registered charity. The investigation came to light this week when it was revealed in the court documents of Moses’ Fair Work lawsuit against the church. Moses is claiming the church mistreated her for bringing up concerns regarding its financial dealings.
According to Moses, who was employed by the church in March 2020 to oversee compliance of global Hillsong entities with Australian non-profit tax laws, claimed the church repeatedly breached those laws, particularly when it came to transferring Australian funds overseas for various projects.
Moses also alleged that Hillsong has engaged in questionable practices when it comes to expenditures for church leaders, including conflicts of interest. According to Moses, Hillsong artists were classified as “pastors,” receiving half of their salaries tax-free while still earning millions in royalties for record sales and other residuals related to Hillsong music.
Moses further claims that Hillsong leaders misappropriated tax-free money as “large cash gifts” for Hillsong founder and former global senior pastor Brian Houston.
Houston resigned in disgrace from Hillsong Church in March 2022 following scandals involving drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual impropriety. It was the very same month the ACNC began its investigation into Hillsong’s financial practices.
Moses said she had repeatedly raised concerns about the ethics and legality of Hillsong’s financial dealings with the church’s chief financial officer, Peter Ridley, but was consistently rebuffed.
One such conflict came in earlier March 2022, when Moses claimed to have raised concerns about the way the church allegedly used donations made to its charity entity, aimed at bringing justice to vulnerable groups, to pay financial deficits for the church entity.
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Moses also reportedly objected to Hillsong asking for charitable donations to renovate “Festival Hall” in Melbourne, Australia, a facility purchased by a Hillsong-related entity in 2020. By claiming that donations were tax deductible, which Moses believed were not, Moses contended that the church was committing tax fraud.
Moses said Ridley was dismissive of her objections and grew frustrated with her.
Following the launch of the ACNC investigation, which began mere weeks after these conflicts between Moses and Ridley, Ridley allegedly told employees in the financial department that Hillsong would be exonerated by the investigation, because “God protects the righteous and Hillsong is the righteous.”
Moses also alleged that during that same meeting, Ridley gave directives to financial staff to conceal certain financial practices from the ACNC. This included halting a pending cash payment of significant value in order to ensure no record of any cash payment to a United States based Hillsong entity existed, as well as reversing a payment to the pastor of Hillsong Tokyo, labeling it a “transactional error,” and instead sending the funds from the American Hillsong entity to Japan.
Following the meeting, Moses anonymously reached out to the ACNC about making a whistleblower inquiry. While she ultimately decided against it, she continued to keep records of her conversations with Ridley and is prepared to share them in court.
Moses stated that she refused to lie to the ACNC during the investigation.
The conflict between Moses and Hillsong came to a head on June 10, when Moses discovered she had lost access to her company emails and shared files. On June 14, she was advised that she was suspended. The next day, Hillsong staff were informed Moses would be taking a personal leave of absence.
Moses said that on June 16, she received an email from Hillsong’s human resources department threatening to contact the police if she did not return her church-issued laptop.
Hillsong Church lawyers expressed to ABC reporters they would defend themselves against Moses’ claims, adding, “We are further instructed that Hillsong is continuing to work with the enquiries made by the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission…As the matter is now before the Federal Court of Australia, it is inappropriate to make any further comment.”
Moses’ Fair Work case will be heard in federal court later this year. Hillsong Church has not yet filed a response to Moses’ claims in federal court.
This article was originally published at ChurchLeaders.com.