Hillsong Church has been accused of exploiting a COVID exemption for Australian religious institutions.
While singing and dancing are currently banned in public venues in New South Wales as a Covid precaution, the megachurch has been reprimanded by regional government department the New South Wales Ministry of Health for allowing young parishioners to sing and dance at its annual youth camp.
Videos shared on Hillsong’s social media accounts, show members doing much more than gathering for prayer, which was all the exemption was intended to protect. Maskless teenage attendees were seen dancing to non-devotional pop music.
The Guardian reported that New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard said in a statement on Thursday January 13;
“While the order does not apply to religious services, it does apply to major recreation facilities and this event is clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent of the order, which is in place to help keep the community safe.”
Explaining why churches were exempted, an NSW Health spokesperson told Australian Tuesday;
“Singing and dancing in hospitality venues and nightclubs is deemed high risk due to increased movement and mingling within and across these venues, the influence of alcohol consumption, and the removal of masks in these settings to consume food and drink.
“People attending religious services generally remain in fixed positions and masks are mandatory for these indoor gatherings.”
When reached for comment by the Guardian, a Hillsong spokesperson insisted the kid program was not a secular dance romp.
The spokesperson said;
“These events are our annual high school-aged youth camps, and are not similar to a music festival in any way.
“Outdoor Christian services are held during the camp but these are only a small part of the program… and any singing is only a small part of each service (a video circulating on social media today reflects a few minutes of this part of the program).”