Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says the government's restrictions in Level 2 around mass gatherings places of worship were a breach of religious freedoms.
Today police announced changes in enforcing potential breaches of Alert Level 2 restrictions at places of worship. Previously only 10 people were permitted at a religious ceremony but from today, more are permitted but only if guests can be kept 2m apart.
Prior to today, the previous restriction limiting 10 people didn't matter to Tamaki and last Sunday he held a church service anyway. Tamaki said he had police support to do so and his followers were legally entitled to practice religious freedom under the Bill of Rights.
“First of all, it was a breach of our religious freedoms, definitely, and the Bill of Rights and all that stuff. And also I felt a huge encroachment on our civil liberties,” says Tamaki.
Tamaki yesterday said he spoke to National Party MP Simeon Brown who received a letter from the New Zealand Police that Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern “was close to misleading or was misleading that churches could actually have met with 100 plus workers,” says Tamaki.
“She denied that. So it was always something that I believe was going to come out open and public and it just has," he says.
Police announced in a statement today that, “Gatherings of more than 10 people are not permitted except where people or groups can remain 2m away from each other. Unless people can be kept 2m apart at a religious ceremony, numbers must be limited to 10 (with exceptions for funerals/tangihanga), and have appropriate contact tracing systems in place.”
Tamaki says, "We were right as to not only just getting together as a church but we should have been able to do it without having all of the media hype that we’re trying to break the law and people getting upset with us. We were right all along.”
Tamaki thinks the government has been inconsistent around the governing of safe gatherings and even the police have been confused.
“Many of the police people who were working with us were saying that they couldn’t understand it and it was for them confusing,” says Tamaki.
Tamaki says he worked with police for their church service last Sunday.
“At that point we worked together to make sure we had all the health precautions in place and did everything right by that which we did and we want to keep our people safe."
Tamaki says police did not want to break the gathering. Police staff who he worked with include the regional commander for Counties Manukau Joel Rodgers and Willy Haumaha who is the deputy.
“There are others but we just have a good relationship with them.”
During the service people also tuned in online and parked up in their cars to watch from the big screen, says Tamaki.
“Because so many, not just our own churches but many others from other churches, they just wanted to get out of the bedroom and get into a place of worship.”
Tamaki says another service will be held this Sunday. Meanwhile police encourage places of worship to limit their numbers in line with the Government’s intention.