The NSW Premier has confirmed Hillsong is “under investigation” after video of shirtless, maskless revellers at a youth event left him “completely shocked”

Rohan Smith and Natalie Brown4 min readJanuary 14, 2022 – 12:14PM

Hillsong youth summer camp videos show huge crowds dancing and singing maskless while elsewhere in NSW it is illegal.More From Music Festivals

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has condemned megachurch Hillsong over an event that saw shirtless, maskless revellers dancing and singing in huge crowds.

A shirtless reveller dances next to a young woman at the Hillsong youth ‘Summercamp’ event in Newcastle on Wednesday.

Video emerged on Thursday from Hillsong’s youth “Summercamp 2022” event in Newcastle showing hundreds of young people singing, dancing and partying without masks, while those things are banned for the rest of the state.

Hillsong defended holding the event, declaring it was “not similar to a music festival in any way”.

But NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the event was “in breach” of public health orders, a stance doubled down on by Mr Perrottet, who told reporters on Friday he was “completely shocked” by the footage and that the matter was now “under investigation”.

“I echo the frustration and anger that people right across the state has felt,” he said.
“What has got us through the last two years has been the efforts and sacrifices that many have made to keep people safe.

“That means that many businesses have had to tailor the way that they operate. 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.”

Mr Perrottet said he was “incredibly disappointed” at what appeared to many as a flagrant disregard of the guidelines.

“These rules aren’t there for the sake of it. These rules are in place to keep people safe and for the 99.95 per cent of people who are doing the right thing, I think everyone would feel completely frustrated and shocked by what they saw last night,” he said.

“And you know, we don’t want to see that happen again. We’ve made it very clear … The authorities will work through that, and my view is that if the legal teams believe it was in breach of the public health order, then my expectation would be that a fine would be in place by the police force.”

NSW Police, however, have already ruled out fining the organisers of Summercamp 2022, saying in a statement they “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”.

Hillsong said in a statement to the ABC that “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”.

“Our camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities including sports and games,” it said. “We follow strict Covid procedures and adhere to government guidelines.”

NSW introduced new restrictions last week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus after the Omicron variant sent cases into their tens of thousands this month — NSW recorded almost 100,000 new cases on Thursday.

The new orders set out by Premier Dominic Perrottet mean singing and dancing are banned at nightclubs, pubs, bars, and entertainment facilities but large religious gatherings are able go ahead.

In a statement sent to news.com.au, Mr Hazzard said: “NSW Health has requested Hillsong immediately stop singing and dancing at an event being held in the Newcastle area.

“While the 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 help keep the community safe.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has condemned megachurch Hillsong over an event that saw shirtless, maskless revellers dancing and singing in huge crowds. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Damian Shaw

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has condemned megachurch Hillsong over an event that saw shirtless, maskless revellers dancing and singing in huge crowds. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Damian Shaw

Australian artists including rapper Illy reacted with disgust on Thursday when footage was shared from the Hillsong Wildlife Summercamp event.

“I can deal with the NSW health minister *specifically* outlawing singing and dancing at outdoor festivals the other day, an unusual attack on a specific industry without any assistance to those affected,” Illy wrote on Instagram.

“I can even just about deal with after all the music industry has done and dealt with in the last two years, seeing a music festival allowed to go ahead where none could, purely because the attendees are from the same church as the prime minister.

“I can just about deal with all that.

“But playing ‘Turn Down For What’ in 2022? Nah get absolutely f[[[[.”

The raucous scenes from the first night of the three-day event at Glenrock Scout Camp in Newcastle were not mentioned in an online breakdown of the camp itinerary.

“We believe that God has something significant in store for our youth this year as we can gather again!” the Hillsong website declares.

A shirtless reveller dances next to a young woman at the Hillsong youth ‘Summercamp’ event in Newcastle on Wednesday.

A shirtless reveller dances next to a young woman at the Hillsong youth ‘Summercamp’ event in Newcastle on Wednesday.

“We have planned an exciting new range of summer activities as well as the signature Summercamp rallies for all students, at our Glenrock Scout Camp.

“Located in the Newcastle region right on the beach with access to a still water lagoon, this campsite has been a much loved camp location of our youth ministry for years!”

Organisers for the $314-a-head event mention Covid-19 but footage from the event shows almost everybody in attendance is maskless.

“We are closely monitoring any developments around the Covid-19 pandemic and will be operating our camps in line with government health regulations,” Hillsong’s website reads.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant explained on Friday that the virus spreads easier on dance floors, with the department defending the decision to make allowances for religious settings.

No masks, not many shirts.

No masks, not many shirts.

“Singing and dancing in hospitality venues and nightclubs is deemed high risk due to increased movement and mingling within and across these venues, the influence of alcohol consumption, and the removal of masks in these settings to consume food and drink,” a NSW Health spokesman said.

“People attending religious services generally remain in fixed positions and masks are mandatory for these indoor gatherings.”

It’s been a bitter pill to swallow for the live music industry which has suffered immensely throughout the pandemic.

— with Bella Fowler

Comment:

Perhaps some verses from the New Testament will bring some perspective

Living Before God Our Father- 1 Peter 1: 13-17

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your [c]stay here in fear18 knowing that you were not redeemed with [d]corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,

Called to Blessing

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be [a]courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For

“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him [b]refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
11 Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Suffering for Right and Wrong

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But [c]sanctify [d]the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. – 1 Peter 4:15

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