The sports grants rorts saga deepened overnight with the explosive news that Hillsong Church in Sydney received the maximum $500,000 under the third round of Sports Australia grants last year.
In a world exclusive, The Bug can reveal that the charismatic Christian megachurch in Baulkham Hills changed its name to Hillside Church, Sports Arena and Spa and added sports icons including a hockey stick and cricket bat to its branding image early last year (top image).
It then applied for “community funding to bring young and impressionable Australians closer to Jesus Christ their Lord through the joy, fellowship and character-building nature of non-competitive sport”.
The Bug understands that Hillsong Church, Sports Arena and Spa rated only 15 on the SA’s own 100-point assessment scale yet won the maximum grant only days before the May 18 general election.
While Hillsong is often attended by Pentecostal prime minister Scott Morrison (right), the Prime Minister’s Office was at pains this morning to stress that the PM played no direct role in the approval process.
“Nevertheless, Mr Morrison is overwhelmed by the gift of salvation that Sports Australia has offered on behalf of Jesus and its grants allocation is its acknowledgement that Hillsong has a heart for authentic worship and is passionate about the church’s mission to see God’s kingdom and wholesome non-competitive, character-building sport established across the earth.”
Speaking through an interpreter this morning, the church’s founder and head pastor Brian Houston told The Bug that the church’s huge auditorium and seating layout for thousands made the venue perfect for indoor sports play events when it was not needed for traditional Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United and Hillsong Young But Never Free music concerts and heavenly worship events.
“Sara sama sacka wacka anna cama coocha catcha cama tosa nosa nera tosa camma wacky brown,” Pastor Houston explained.
He added that any funds raised by renting the venue for such sporting worship would naturally go to the church’s excellent work in the community, once basic administration, normal running costs and looming but necessary vehicle upgrades were met.
“Goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob,” he stressed.
Asked where the funds would actually be used to benefit local community members, Pastor Houston was quick to point out: “Um mau mau mau mau Um mau mau mau mau Um mau mau mau mau.”
The intepreter explained: “The rents will be fair and all we’re asking from local sporting groups that take up our generous offer is that they respect the playing of God Save the Queen at the start of games and join us in song and worship at half and fulltime as we pay homage to Jesus Christ our Saviour and when they hopefully will buy some of our excellent songs of praise CDs released each week.
“That’s what we’ve promised SA in our submission for funding and that’s what we intend to give these sports-loving kiddies. Fiddling in any way with this formula will not be tolerated as we’d love to have further Sports Australia grants money down the track, so to speak, especially for our Jesus Saves Athletics Track and multi-level Closer, My Lord, to Thee Clubhouse project.”