Hillsong Church will not be fined by police for a New South Wales youth camp where worshipers were filmed singing and dancing, despite the health minister from the state said the event was “clearly against the spirit and intent” of public health ordinances.
The church apologized on Friday for “giving the impression that we are not playing our part to keep New South Wales safe” after footage of its annual summer camp for young people near Newcastle have sparked widespread outrage amid the state’s number of Covid cases. They risked paying fines of up to $ 55,000.
NSW Police said officers attended the event and spoke with organizers but would not impose a fine.
“After discussions with the organizers and after consultation with NSW Health, no offense will be pronounced,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Peter Glynn said in a statement on Friday.
The church confirmed that it was ordered by NSW Health to “stop singing and dancing with worshipers and students” at the camp, and did so immediately.
However, the church continued to deny that the camp, which runs until Sunday, has any similarity to music festivals, which are explicitly banned indoors and outdoors until Jan. 27 in under an amendment to the New South Wales Public Health Order. Church services are exempt, but images of unmasked worshipers dancing to pop music in the camp have angered many as festivals and concerts are being canceled.
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“It is important to clarify that the current youth camps that we are running are not music festivals,” Hillsong said, saying the camp was “low risk as described in current guidelines” because it was being held outdoors, with sports and alcohol-free activities, and the 200 or so students present were all “part of the same social network”.
“These camps are Christian in orientation and include worship services. Over a period of three days, the percentage of time spent singing is minor. However, we regret that we have given the impression that we are not doing our part to keep NSW safe and we sincerely apologize to the community at large, ”the statement said.
Earlier, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the event was “clearly contrary to the spirit and intent” of the public health order. Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said he was “incredibly disappointed” with the scenes and said the church should be fined if it is found to have broken the order.
Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie said it was “a music festival, without a doubt.”
“There is no doubt that it will also be supplemented by a super-spreader [event]Lambie told Channel Nine’s Today show Friday morning. “Newcastle had a super spreader [event in December] take a tour of a nightclub. What is the difference? Because they don’t have a drink in their hand? I hope you are joking?”
Earlier on Friday, Perrottet said the state government would tighten regulations if Hillsong evades a fine due to a “loophole.”
“But I don’t want to do this because it means it will capture a lot of other organizations doing the right thing… I will take the advice of the legal teams at NSW Health and if they are in violation what is the information I am doing. I received from the Minister of Health, then a fine should be imposed, ”he said.
The musicians were particularly outspoken about the footage, with several big names forming a protest supergroup called Thrillsong. After the Hillsong footage was shared widely, artists like the Jungle Giants, What So Not, Art vs Science, CC: DISCO !, Illy, Lime Cordiale, Montaigne and Peking Duk came together to protest the ban on live music during church services and sporting events is allowed to continue.
“We strongly support measures to protect our fans and our communities and to protect our healthcare workers. We are simply asking that if rules are made, they apply to everyone equally, ”they said in a joint statement. “We have to be in the same boat. “
Electronic artist Chris Emerson, who performs under the name What So Not, said he is actively researching religious and sporting venues for Thrillsong to perform, in order to highlight the double standards.
“We are looking very seriously with the legal teams if we have a case of discrimination against the NSW government,” he said. “We also have a lot of free time and a lot of spirit, so we’ll gladly get together and do some kind of religious ceremony as Thrillsong if that’s the only way we can play.
“I wish everyone would sing and dance, it’s so frustrating when people outside the music industry are allowed to hold these events while people in the industry comply with very expensive regulations and do everything correctly. Music festivals have been targeted, while a church is holding a music festival. “
Jungle Giants guitarist Sam Hales said they just wanted a rule for all live events.
“No one wants to cancel cricket, the Australian Open or religious events. We just want to be at the table; we want to be seen alongside sport and the church, ”he said. “It’s really hard to see tens of thousands of people at a sporting event, all screaming, without social distancing. A group can play for them, but three doors down in a hall, the same group would have their concert canceled. This is the new discourse – music no longer exists, sport and religion do.
“We need to start shedding light on all these double standards. It just doesn’t make sense and it gets silly.