Hillsong Church has been ordered by Australian health officials to stop singing and dancing during services at its youth camps.
New South Wales Health issued the order after a backflash against video footage from Hillsong’s summer youth camp showing young people singing and dancing.
The footage has stoked anger from many musicians at a time when live music events and festivals are not allowed.
A protest group of music bands calling itself Thrillsong said in a statement: “We firmly support measures to protect our fans and communities and to safeguard our healthcare workers. We simply ask that if rules are made, they apply to everyone equally. We need to be in this together.”
Stephen Wade, chair of the Australian Live Music Business Council, told The Australian newspaper: “The confusion for the people who make their living within our industry is: what is the difference between singing and dancing at the cricket, or at Hillsong, or at a wedding, which are all allowed as of today?”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the scenes.
“These rules aren’t there for the sake of it. These rules are in place to keep people safe,” he said.
NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, said that the event was “clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent” of public health orders.
NSW police have spoken to Hillsong but said no fine would be issued because the event was deemed low-risk.
Hillsong said in a statement on Friday that it had “immediately and willingly” enacted the instruction to cease singing and dancing at the camp, which runs until Sunday.
“It is important to clarify that the current youth camps we are holding are not music festivals. 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,” it said.
“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.
“We have also implemented strict Covid safe procedures before and during each camp which include professional paramedics onsite 24 hours per day with testing capabilities.
“These camps have a Christian focus and include worship services. 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.”