Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston lashed out at a decision to allow tennis star Novak Djokovic to remain in Australia and urged the government to ‘toughen up the rules’ just three days before a church youth camp sparked public outrage.
The mega church has come under fire after footage went viral of young revellers singing and dancing at the Hillsong Wildlife Summercamp held north of Sydney, despite a statewide ban on those activities in nightclubs, pubs and outdoor events.
The video sparked widespread public outrage on a day NSW recorded more than 92,000 new Covid-19 cases.
Three days earlier, the Hillsong founder weighed into Djokovic’s Covid-19 vaccine exemption and visa saga ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne next week.
Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston (pictured with wife Bobbie) slammed the decision to allow unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic into Australia days before the church was accused of breaching Covid rules at a youth camp
Mr Houston fired off a blistering tweet on Monday after a judge ordered Djokovic be released from immigration detention and not be deported.
‘He should never have been allowed in the country. Hopefully Australia will learn from it and toughen up the rules. #proudlyvaccinated’,’ Mr Houston replied to a tweet.
Mr Houston’s comments about the tennis world number one sparked a divided reaction with even the tweet author replying he would be ‘standing well back from this one’.
‘Wow Brian, I used to be inspired by your messages. I’ve opened my eyes. I didn’t realise that totalitarianism could blind you so bad. Just when the world needs Christian leaders to stand up for what is right! Your hashtag should read#proudtobechristian,’ one man wrote.
Another added: ‘Coming from a pastor, this is a very saddening tweet. Where’s Jesus in this?’
Brian Houston weighed into the Novak Djokovic saga on Monday (tweet pictured)
Novak Djokovic (pictured on Friday) may still have his visa cancelled in the coming days
Hillsong founder Brian Houston (pictured in Sydney on December 9) said he hoped Australia learned from the Novak Djokovic saga and toughened up the rules for unvaccinated arrivals
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Hillsong for comment regarding Mr Houston’s comments about Djokovic.
The world number one and 20-time grand slam champion may have visa cancelled and kicked out of the country, despite being declared as the top seed at Thursday’s Australian Open draw.
Meanwhile, the backlash continues over footage which shows young Hillsong followers partying to religious-themed pop music on the first night of the camp on Wednesday.
The event for Year 10 to 12 students was permitted to go ahead despite the NSW Government recently extending a ban on singing and dancing in nightclubs, pubs and bars to outdoor events – leading several music festivals to be cancelled.
However, NSW Health made an exemption for religious services – with NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant this week saying religious services were exempt from the rules because those attending such places of worship normally stay in ‘fixed positions’.
Hillsong event organisers have since been ordered by NSW Health to cease singing and dancing at the event.
‘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,’ health minister Brad Hazzard said.
Hillsong Youth shared a series of videos showing its teenage followers partying to religious-themed pop music on Wednesday night
Hillsong is yet to comment on its co-founder’s views on Djokovic. Pictured is church co-founder Brian Houston at Sydney’s Park Hyatt Hotel last month
NSW Police says the church will not be fined.
‘NSW Police 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,’ a spokesperson said.
The church insisted its high school-aged youth camps were not comparable to music festivals and that Covid-safe protocols were followed.
‘Our camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities including sports and games,’ a Hillsong statement read.
‘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.’
Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s comments about Novak Djokovic sparked a divided response
FULL HILLSONG STATEMENT ON ITS NEWCASTLE YOUTH CAMP
These events are our annual high school aged youth camps, and are not similar to a music festival in any way.
Our camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities including sports and games. We follow strict Covid procedures and adhere to government guidelines.
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 (a video circulating on social media today reflects a few minutes of this part of the program).
Covid safety information was provided to participant parents prior to camp, and all students and workers undertook rapid antigen testing before attending the camp.
Face masks are compulsory during travel on buses to and from camp, all workers serving food are wearing masks, and a deep clean of the facilities was undertaken between the two camps.
Sanitation stations are positioned around the site while paramedics and testing capabilities are on site 24 hours per day. Isolation protocols have been developed for positive cases or close contacts at camp, and where required all attendee details are registered for contact tracing.
Questions on government Covid guidelines should be directed to the NSW Government.