Last October, Free to Be Church, a group of NZ Church leaders, announced that they would be challenging the NZ government in the courts regarding religious freedom and COVID restrictions. With the implementation of the traffic light regime, things have become worse and the need to address this matter more pressing.
“The government has not made the process easy so far,” says spokesperson Logan Hagoort. “Our lawyers reached out to the Hon. Chris Hipkins to request information regarding decision making as it relates to the Church. We were effectively brushed off and told the information is on the COVID-19 website!”
According to their lawyers they requested information to ensure that the Government had given due regard to the NZ Bill of Rights Act as required by law. Disappointingly, and contrary to the principle of freedom of official information, the Minister effectively told us to wait until the information was put on the COVID-19 website.
Through their lawyers, Free to Be Church is now in the process of pursuing legal action in the New Zealand High Court to seek a remedy to this pressing NZ Bill of Rights Act matter.
“It is essential that the leaders of the Church are able to self-govern spiritual matters of faith, practise, and worship without state interference. Our government have consistently sought to control matters within the Church. The Church simply wants the Government to respect the fundamental freedoms recorded in the NZ Bill of Rights Act,” says Hagoort.
“We were initially going to seek a judicial review, but we have come to realise that this isn’t enough. We have now decided to take the Government’s mandates to the High Court to test whether they have encroached upon the freedoms set out in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.”
“New Zealand’s constitution protects basic civil liberties such as the freedom to practice your religion, and that means that appropriate limits must be maintained by the Government in their interactions with churches”.
“At the end of the day, this is the last thing we want to spend our time doing, but unfortunately Government overreach during this pandemic is preventing us from practicing our God-given faith. We believe that we can worship safely without this sort of bureaucratic interference that fails to respect the Bill of Rights and the subsidiary of the Church” says Hagoort.
Free To Be Church is a nationwide effort by a group of New Zealand pastors, church leaders, and Christians to secure and protect the lawful, God-given freedoms to practice the Christian faith in accordance with God’s Word, and as recognised within both the New Zealand Bill of Rights.
For more information about Free To Be Church please visit their website: freetobechurch.nz