Australian megachurch Hillsong has avoided being fined by police over a potential breach of Covid rules during a three-day youth camp in New South Wales on Friday.
Videos and pictures emerged of hundreds of maskless teenagers singing and dancing in a tent despite a strict Covid-19 public health order.
New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard ordered Hillsong to immediately cease any dancing and singing in the camp as “singing and dancing at a major recreational facility is in breach of the public health order.”
Hillsong Church apologised and confirmed they have “immediately and willingly enacted that instruction“ and added that “supporting the wider community effort to keep Australia safe, are both priorities for our church.”
Dominic Perrottet, New South Wales Premier, had called for the church to be fined as he believed that “even if technically [the camp] was within the rules, it certainly wasn’t in the spirit of the rules.”
But following an investigation, New South Wales police said that instead of fining the church, they would “liaise with organisers” to help “ensure future compliance with Public Health Orders”.
The church has also been accused of “double standards” as videos showed the high school students dancing to mainstream music with many night industry owners struggling to see the difference between the Christian camp and a music festival.
Under current Covid restrictions in New South Wales, dancing and singing are forbidden in all music festivals which has resulted in many cancellations.
But in its statement, Hillsong wanted to clarify that “the current youth camps we are holding are not music festivals,” as they have a “Christian focus and include worship services” and are “are alcohol-free events, held outdoors” with over 200 students attending each camp.
“Over a three day duration the percentage of time spent singing is minor. However we regret giving any perception that we were not playing our part to keep NSW safe and we sincerely apologise to the community at large. Our heart is for people, and loving and caring for all people is at the core of our church,” the statement concluded.