From the start of lockdown we’ve been plagued with inconsistencies in which businesses can or cannot operate and what we can or cannot do.
Using essential rather than safe as the rule for whether or not businesses could open was the cause of most of the inconsistency under Level 4.
Control freakery seems to be the reason for some of the inconsistencies under Level 2.
We can go to brothels and strip clubs now and will be able to go to bars later this week but still won’t be able to go to church.
This has prompted Simon Bridges to write an open letter to the Prime Minister:
I write to you on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who practice many different faiths and religions, who continue to be unable to gather in any meaningful way for worship this weekend because the Covid-19 restrictions your Government has chosen to keep in place limit the number of people who can attend religious services to 10.
New Zealanders of faith have understood the need to sacrifice their freedom of religion to gather for worship to support our fight against Covid-19.
People of all faiths have done their part, however they are now being told that despite our alert level being reduced they are still no longer able to meet for worship.
New Zealanders find it inconsistent that you allow large numbers of people at bars, restaurants or sporting events but continue to deny more than 10 people gathering for religious services.
It was right to increase the number of people who can attend funerals and tangi – it is right to do the same for our faith communities.
Religious institutions are in a better place than almost any other organisation that is allowed to host larger crowds, and are therefore able to ensure appropriate physical distancing and health precautions are taking place.
I strongly urge you to reconsider this limit so New Zealanders of faith can gather and worship this weekend and participate in what is one of the most defining aspects of their lives: expressing their faith through worship.
The answer Health Minister David Clark gave to Simon O’Connor’s question on this shows the control freakery:
O’Connor put the question to Dr David Clark in Parliament on Wednesday, claiming the Government failed to consider New Zealanders’ rights to freedom of religion when it drafted the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill.
“Is the Minister aware that strip clubs are allowed to open during alert level 2 but churches are not, and if so, why is one deemed so much safer than the other?” he asked.
“Speaker, I think the Member will understand – both he and I are people that have interacted with churches, that I know – that people often attend services of worship for fellowship reasons,” Dr Clark responded.
“They are there to worship, but they are also there to mix and mingle with others. The purpose of having rules around gatherings – places people gather to intermingle – is precisely to ensure we are keeping the space for people, the appropriate social distance, and keeping the virus out.”
Dr Clark went on to explain that commercial premises such as strip clubs had their own requirements to ensure people did not intermingle. . .
Fellowship is part of church attendance but if bars and strip clubs can be trusted to ensure their patrons don’t intermingle, why can’t churches be trusted to ensure their congregations do the same?
An appeal from more than 75 church leaders asks government to have faith in them:
Whilst we understand the reasoning of having public groups of no more than 10 (50 now at funerals) we believe and would argue that our church people are generally highly responsible and hopefully better behaved on the whole compared to some behaviour at late night bars etc. It is far easier for us to track and trace, because we already know our church families.
We are not asking to be open seven days a week until all hours. Church gatherings mainly take place on one day of the week.
We would like you to consider that churches be able to resume services with the same restrictions and safety measures in place that other sectors of society are operating under. As bars are allowed to reopen, surely the church, as a place of nurturing, stability and support in the community should be able to open as well.
If you have faith in business owners, we request you also have faith in us. . .
The nearest church to us seats about 120 people but it’s unusual to have more than about 20 people at a service.
It would be possible to require people to register their intention to attend, limit numbers to ensure social distance could be maintained, have no singing, and control entry and exit to ensure no-one breached the distancing.
It’s a Presbyterian Church, the parishioners will be sober which is more than can be said for at least some of the patrons at bars and strip clubs and they can definitely be trusted to keep far further away from each other than prostitutes will be to their customers.