Jacqui Lambie has lambasted Hillsong over a Newcastle youth camp where hundreds of young people were singing and dancing maskless despite a statewide ban.
Senator Lambie said the evangelical group were “not special”and has called for them to be “slapped down”.
NSW outlawed dancing and singing at nightclubs, pubs, bars and entertainment facilities amid a spike in Covid-19 infections across the state, but churches were allowed to go ahead with large religious gatherings.
Footage emerged from Hillsong’s youth “Wildlife Summercamp 2022” on Thursday, which showed young people in a large crowd singing and dancing, with some shirtless or on each other’s shoulders while top-40 music plays loudly.
Hillsong has defended itself, saying the event was following “strict Covid procedures and adhering to government guidelines”.
But Senator Lambie is outraged.
“This is a music festival no doubt. No doubt it will also top off with a super spreader,” Senator Lambie told Today on Friday.
“Newcastle had a super spreader (event in December) go around from a nightclub. What is the difference? Because they don’t have a drink in their hand?
“Are you kidding me?”
Senator Lambie said Hillsong should be “slapped down today” and cop a fine.
“Nobody gets anything special through Covid, nobody. This has got to stop,” she said.
“I tell you what, give them the fines, teach them a lesson once and for all.
“Just because you are Hillsong, you are not special.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard released a statement on Thursday, saying Hillsong had been told to “immediately stop singing and dancing” at the youth camp event.
“While the (Public Health) 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 keep the community safe,” Mr Hazzard said.
NSW Police have ruled out fining the organisers of the youth camp, despite Mr Hazzard labelling the event a “breach”.
“NSW Police will liaise with organisers to ensure future compliance with the public health orders after NSW Health deemed the location to be a major recreational facility,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet weighed in on Friday morning’s press conference, saying he had been “completely shocked” to see the footage.
“I echo the frustration and anger that people right across the state has felt,” he said.
“Many people have had to change their behaviour to keep people safe. Now, we made those rules and even if technically, it was within the rules, it certainly wasn’t in the spirit of the rules.
“Now, I understand that Hillsong are ensuring that that doesn’t occur again. But I was extremely disappointed, these rules aren’t there for the sake of it.”
Australian music heavyweights voiced their anger when footage emerged of the concert on Thursday, with rapper Illy saying the situation was “absolutely f***ed”.
Restrictions have put the music industry on its knees.
The rules have resulted in a spate of cancellations and postponements, including Grapevine Gathering festival, Tamworth’s Country Music festival, and national tours by international acts like Belinda Carlisle and Rod Stewart.
Australian band The Jungle Giants, who were due to headline Grapevine Gathering, tweeted “Thinking about starting a church in NSW so we can play some gigs. Who’s in?”
Hillsong released a statement on Thursday, saying the event was “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,” it said.
“Our camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities including sports and games. We follow strict Covid procedures and adhere to government guidelines.”
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( Information from news.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )