Police Target Hillsong Church; Outdoor Youth Camp Ordered to Stop Singing, Dancing Due to COVID
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Hillsong Church in Australia was recently ordered by New South Wales (NSW) health officials to stop singing and dancing at its youth camp in Newcastle amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement posted on its website, Hillsong said keeping people safe during events is a priority and that the church has always adhered to the public health orders issued by the government.
"Hillsong Church has always abided by public health orders as directed by each government, and takes COVID safe procedures very seriously for all services and events," the statement reads. "Ensuring the safety of those attending Hillsong events, and supporting the wider community effort to keep Australia safe, are both priorities for our church."
"It is important to clarify that the current youth camps we are holding are not music festivals," the church said. "These are high school-aged events that include sporting activities and games. They are alcohol-free events, held outdoors, and the number of students attending each camp is just over 200. The students are known to us and part of the same social network. All of these factors have been communicated by the NSW Government as low-risk as described under current guidelines."
Hillsong also pointed out that it initiated "strict COVID safety procedures" before and during each camp. And medical professionals such as paramedics were continuously onsite.
NSW Health restricted dancing and singing during entertainment events, both indoor and outdoor, effective January 8, with some exemptions.
The New South Wales Premier, Dominic Perrottet, said Thursday that he was "incredibly disappointed" to find out that Hillsong's youth members were dancing and singing.
The Guardian reports that NSW police are investigating Hillsong's youth summer camp and that the church could be fined up to $55,000 if found to have violated the state's COVID public health order.
Hillsong stressed that time spent singing during the three-day camp was minor, but still apologized for any frustration or anger caused by the ordeal.
"However we regret giving any perception that we were not playing our part to keep NSW safe and we sincerely apologize to the community at large," Hillsong said. "Our heart is for people, and loving and caring for all people is at the core of our church."
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