A former student of Hillsong College who sued Hillsong Church Australia for sexual contact by its employee has declined a settlement agreement because it included a nondisclosure agreement.

Anna Crenshaw, whose father is Pastor Ed Crenshaw of the megachurch Victory Church in Pennsylvania, is engaged in a lawsuit against Hillsong for alleged actions by one of its administrative staff members, Jason Mays.

Crenshaw was set to go to trial on May 6 in New South Wales, but the trial was postponed as the parties tried to work out a settlement agreement for an undisclosed sum of money, according to reporting by Christianity Today.

However, when Hillsong sought an NDA from Crenshaw, the settlement fell apart.

“We were unable to come to a settlement today because Hillsong changed their plan in a ploy to intimidate and silence me. I will not give up my voice,” Crenshaw told reporters in Australia. “This has never been about money for me but about justice and accountability.”

NDAs are commonly used to protect “trade secrets” but are most controversial when they try to keep someone silent about the very acts that gave rise to a claim, attorney Boz Tchividjian told MinistryWatch in an interview last year.

According to MinistryWatch’s quarterly survey of the nation’s largest Christian ministries, a significant minority — about 42% of ministries — use NDAs. Of those, 21% use them as part of a settlement or severance agreement.

NDAFree is “a global movement with a vision to see individuals, Christian organizations, and local churches free from the misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements.”

“There is something specific about the Christian faith which means NDAs have no place, except for data or intellectual property protection” Ben Nicholson, a leader with NDAFree, told MinistryWatch. “Relying on NDAs erodes the public trust.”

Crenshaw said she had hoped Hillsong would move forward with some level of accountability since its change in leadership after the departure of founder Brian Houston, who left under his own cloud of accusations.

However, the NDA convinced Crenshaw that “despite their new leadership, they have the same tactics.”

Now age 26, Crenshaw claims Mays groped her during her time at Hillsong College when she was 18. She said she didn’t immediately report his actions because she was ashamed.

Two years later, when she did report him to the head of pastoral care, Crenshaw was told the church was sure Mays was “really sorry.” Hillsong did not report the incident to local police for several months until succumbing to pressure from Crenshaw’s father.

Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault in 2020 and was sentenced to two years’ probation with mandatory counselling. He was then allowed to return to work at Hillsong.

Crenshaw’s lawsuit alleges that Hillsong had “no proper or adequate policy or procedure in place for the proper or adequate handling of complaints of sexual assault” and had failed to properly protect students.

Hillsong released a statement regarding the settlement on May 3. It said in part, “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.”

This piece is republished with permission from MinistryWatch.

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctor from Baylor University. She has homeschooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.