The government of Australia’s New South Wales has issued guidelines for church leaders which ban singing and require masks amid an increase of COVID-19 cases in the region, even when merely conducting a livestream event.
An email issued to religious community leaders from the New South Wales Ministry of Health obtained by Eternity News outlined how the new guidelines applied to churches, posing a number of possible questions.
The guidelines as applied to religious leaders who are not even holding in-person services but simply meeting to conduct a livestream for congregants are particularly striking, as singing in church outright “not permitted,” whether for a live service or simply a Zoom service.
The email states, “please be advised that under the current Public Health Order (PHO), NSW Health has now confirmed that singing is not permitted in indoor areas of places of public worship.”
“This includes during a live stream, and in regional NSW,” the email specifies. “This rule will protect people who may be involved in assisting in livestreaming an event, for example technical assistance, or who may be in regional communities attending a service. Previously there has been transmission via singing in a place of worship, which is of concern, particularly with this more transmissible COVID-19 variant.”
In response to the posed questions as to whether religious service leaders will “need to wear a mask while livestreaming,” the email affirms, “Yes,” explaining that masks are required in all such facilities, period.
“The requirement is to wear a face mask in all indoor areas of non-residential premises. This rule applies across the whole of NSW,” it explains.
“A service leader may temporarily take off their mask to deliver a speech for accessibility reasons. For example to ensure viewers who may lip read are able to understand the service leader. As soon as they have finished their speech, the service leader should put their face mask back on.”
The guidance was met with backlash from Australia’s prominent Christian leaders, such as Brian Houston of Hillsong Church who declared it to be discriminatory against the faith community.
So our NSW government have come up with an edict that not even one person can sing into a camera to lead livestream Christian worship. This is clearly religious discrimination and so archaic it’s hard to believe. Christians standup.
— Brian Houston (@BrianCHouston) July 2, 2021
“This is clearly religious discrimination and so archaic it’s hard to believe,” he declared.
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