Hillsong Church maintains its youth camps are ‘not music festivals’, after NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was ‘completely shocked’ to see video of attendees partying without masks at a summer camp near Newcastle and NSW Health called for an immediate halt to singing and dancing.
Mr Perrottet said the organization should be fined if found to be in breach of COVID-19 restrictions, which prohibit singing and dancing at music festivals, hospitality venues, nightclubs, entertainment facilities and major leisure facilities. The ordinance does not apply to religious services.
“I understand Hillsong is making sure this doesn’t happen again. But I was incredibly disappointed,” Mr. Perrottet said. “These rules are not there for fun.”
In a statement released today, Hillsong Church said its camps had a Christian focus and included worship services, and that over the three days “the percentage of time spent chanting is minor”.
He said he has “always complied with public health orders as directed by each government,” considers the safety of attendees and the wider community a priority for the church, and takes safety procedures seriously. COVID safety, including the presence of professional paramedics on site and testing capabilities. .
“It’s important to clarify that the youth camps we’re running right now are not music festivals,” Hillsong said.
“These are events for high school students that include sports activities and games. These are non-alcoholic events, organized outdoors, and the number of students participating in each camp is just over 200. The students are known to us and are part of the same social network.
“All of these factors have been communicated by the NSW Government as low risk, as described in current guidance.”
Hillsong said he regretted making it look like he wasn’t playing his part and apologized to the community at large.
“We have since spoken to NSW Health and been instructed to cease singing and dancing worshipers/students during services taking place at the campsite and have immediately and voluntarily adopted this instruction,” the statement read.