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Hillsong Church in court over alleged involvement in indecent assault case

by Kelly Valencia

Renowned megachurch Hillsong has again captured public attention following a recent civil case hearing in Australia.

Anna Crenshaw, a former church member and Hillsong College student, is pressing the church to acknowledge its role in her ordeal back in 2018. At the age of 18, she alleges she was indecently assaulted by Hillsong staff member Jason Mays.

In its defence filed with the court, Hillsong denied any negligence towards the former congregant.

Mays admitted guilt to one count of indecent assault in Penrith Local Court in January 2020, receiving a two-year conditional release order without a conviction recorded.

The week-long trial was due to start in the New South Wales Supreme Court on Monday but didn’t occur as Crenshaw and Hillsong agreed to a settlement in principle. However, later in the week, negotiations broke down.

Following the collapse of the negotiations, Crenshaw alleged coercion to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which was why she refused to sign.

“I was seeking some justice, and I was ready for that Monday, and I feel like Hillsong ripped that opportunity from me, and they’ve delayed the pain,” she said outside the court.

“I have worked so hard to find my voice in coming forward from my first initial report to Hillsong and they have from day one tried to silence me.”

In response, Hillsong Church issued a statement refuting Crenshaw's claims and emphasising respect for her privacy and court proceedings.

“Out of respect for Anna’s privacy and in due deference to the Court, Hillsong has refrained from making any public statement about these proceedings. However, in light of developments this week, Hillsong wishes to clarify the issues in these proceedings,” the statement read.

“The Supreme Court proceedings are about two issues: whether Hillsong is liable for the assault and its response to Anna’s report of the assault that occurred at a private gathering of friends attended by the now former staff member in his personal capacity and arranged without the knowledge or involvement of Hillsong.

“Hillsong is defending this case and was ready to proceed with the trial on Monday morning. Following an approach by Anna’s legal team, it entered into good faith discussions with her.  We reject any suggestion that we attempted to prevent Anna from having her day in Court or that there were any attempts to silence or intimidate her.”

It concluded: “In relation to Anna’s report of the assault, Hillsong respected Anna’s directions and requests for confidentiality.  It also supported her personally and in her studies.   After undertaking its own investigations and obtaining independent legal advice, Hillsong reported the matter to the NSW Police after notifying Anna’s representative of its intention to do so. We commend Anna and indeed every person who has the courage to come forward after experiencing any form of hurt or harm.”

Justice Robertson Wright has adjourned the matter to 13th May to set a new date.

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