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Hillsong Co-Founder Brian Houston Pleads Guilty to DUI

He’s appealing a second charge of driving with a high blood alcohol content

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Hillsong Church co-founder Brian Houston has been sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Houston was arrested on Feb. 26, 2022, in Newport Beach, California, and charged with two separate counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more.

The penalty for the second charge, under which he was reportedly recorded as having a blood alcohol content of 0.20%, more than twice the legal limit, has been stayed until he completes an appeal process.

Houston must pay $140 in fines and will be required to complete an alcohol treatment program, enroll in victim impact counseling, and attend self-help meetings, Church Leaders reported.

Houston, a New Zealand native, founded Hillsong Church with his wife Bobbie in the suburbs of Sydney in 1983. The church now has 30 locations around the world, with an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. Hillsong’s music program also produces popular worship songs used in evangelical churches around the world.

Houston also faces charges brought in February 2021 for allegedly covering up the child sex abuse of his late father, pastor Frank Houston. In March 2021, he stepped down from his roles on the church’s boards to focus on defending himself in court.

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In January 2022, Houston announced he would be taking a year-long sabbatical from pastoral leadership at Hillsong, saying he wanted to further focus on defending himself against the criminal charges.

However, the Hillsong board revealed the sabbatical was also part of a disciplinary action against Houston for acting inappropriately toward women and for abuse of alcohol and prescription anxiety medication.

The DUI arrest occurred in the time between the start of his compulsory sabbatical and his eventual resignation in March 2022.

In a statement posted on social media at the time of his arrest, Houston said he took full responsibility for his actions, saying he had made the “foolish decision” to drive a few yards to park his car and that he was under “immense pressure and emotional strain” because of all that was happening within the church.

In November 2022, Houston denied having an ongoing substance abuse problem, referring to the implication as “whispering and innuendo.”

Main photo: Screengrab / Facebook

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.