A former Hillsong megachurch student is suing the Australia-based institution after she was sexually assaulted by one of its employees.
The action was brought this week in the Australian state of New South Wales’ Supreme Court by Anna Crenshaw, who alleged she was nonconsensually groped by a drunken Hillsong staffer in 2016, the Australian first reported.
Crenshaw, who was 18 at the time, had moved from Pennsylvania to Sydney to study at Hillsong College less than two years prior when Jason Mays — a married Hillsong staffer whose father, John Mays, has been a key member of church management for close to 15 years — assaulted her one night while at a gathering.
“Jason grabbed me, putting his hand between my legs and his head on my stomach and began kissing my stomach. I felt his arms and hands wrapped around my legs making contact with my inner thigh, butt and crotch,” she wrote as part of a statement she submitted to Hillsong in 2018 informing them of the incident, the Christian Post previously reported.
In response to her coming forward, the church defended Mays and shamed Crenshaw, making her feel at fault for bringing up the issue, according to the Australian report. Crenshaw and her father, pastor Ed Crenshaw, went to the police five months later and in 2020, Mays pleaded guilty to “assault with an act of indecency” in a local court.
Hillsong continued defending him, though, releasing a statement stating that other witnesses’ recollections of the gathering “did not fully corroborate (Ms. Crenshaw’s) version of the events.” Onstage, former church head Brian Houston once said of Mays, “We’re talking about a young man, a young married man who did something stupid, got much drunker than he should, which is an issue we’ve got to keep addressing, and got himself in a bad situation,” the Australian reported.
“I can only say that I’m proud of Anna for standing up for what is right and for continuing to do what she can to hold Hillsong Church accountable for their poor handling of their victims,” Ed Crenshaw told The Post of his daughter’s new lawsuit. “The need for her to do so is obvious given Hillsong leadership’s pattern of covering up improper behavior, including that of Brian Houston.”
Hillsong did not return The Post’s request for comment.
The new lawsuit follows Houston’s resignation from the church he founded earlier this year. The 68-year-old cited the ongoing trial accusing him of failing to turn over evidence of his father’s pedophilia, as well as misconduct allegations as the reasons for his resignation.
Houston stepping down, and now the lawsuit, mark the most recent blows to the once celebrity-beloved multinational megachurch, which has spent the past two years enmeshed in various scandals since the firing of Justin Bieber’s former pastor, Carl Lentz.