The New Zealand Government in October 2021 announced the Covid-19 Protection Framework, otherwise known as “traffic lights”, for managing the impacts of Covid-19 in the community. The system was brought into effect on 2 December 2021 with most of NZ at the Orange level at that time. Nationwide pro-family lobby group Family First organised a petition against the restrictions mandated under the traffic lights system and presented it to Parliament on 15 December with a claimed 87,269 signatures. The group also emailed its members to advise that its lawyers had written to the NZ Government at that time urging them to abandon vaccine mandates especially the restrictions applied to places of worship (churches etc).
The government, as expected, rejected the overtures from this group, and a subsequent statement was issued on 24 December that the previous day an application for judicial review of the CPF was lodged with the High Court in the name of a number of church groupings representing approximately 110 individual congregations. Contrary to what was stated, this group does not represent a wide range of churches. Many are based in Auckland and the average number of congregants is about 250, which is not large for churches in New Zealand. These numbers are greatly skewed by the inclusion of one particular large denomination, City Impact Church.
The gist of the case being presented appears to be much the same as another separate group, FreeToBeChurch, which is mainly made up of small conservative “fundamentalist” churches and is also listing the prospect of court action of its own. Essentially, it is based around the claim that churches must be able to physically meet in person in order to function. Given that Family First is a political lobby group, the action also appears to have an overtly political component to it, and thus these churches appear to be crossing over into political activism, which is extensively chronicled in other countries elsewhere in this blog, where it has created widespread conflict and division through allegiances to particular parties, although that doesn’t appear to be the case here to date.
The second part of this series will provide a theological analysis of the basis of the court case and the general motives of the people behind it.