Brian Tamaki has been accused of "promoting anarchy" by The AM Show host Duncan Garner in a fiery clash regarding the bishop's intention to run a church service this Sunday, despite the level 2 restrictions requiring religious services to be capped at 10 people.
The self-described apostle and Destiny Church founder announced via Facebook that the service will run this Sunday in a clear breach of alert level protocol. Under level 2, which will become effective as of Thursday, there is a strict 10-person limit on social gatherings, church and religious services and events including weddings and funerals.
But Tamaki is urging his followers to "stand up together for our freedoms", claiming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Government are robbing New Zealanders of their "liberties and rights" by denying mass congregations of worship.
"They're breaching the Bill of Rights by containing us to just 10 people. We've got restaurants, cinemas, bars, clubs, schools, malls, rugby games - they're all allowed the green light with no limits. So it's obvious [that] the church has been targeted," Tamaki told The AM Show on Wednesday morning.
Restaurants, cinemas and the like are not permitted to operate "with no limits", with all public gatherings and public spaces required to have no more than 100 customers or patrons at any given time.
"Right now I've had enough. We've kept [to] all the requirements, we've got a testing station outside our front doorstep, most of our people have been tested - positive - and still we're punished in this way. I've had enough of this state-controlled Government and their abusive political power, trying to tell the church 'you're not an essential requirement'... to hell with it, or to heaven with it. We're going to have a service this weekend, obey the rules and social distance," Tamaki said.
Despite his insistence that worshippers will be following Ministry of Health guidelines by maintaining physical distance, Garner pointed out that running a service with more than 10 attendees is clearly flouting the rules.
"I'm following the rules, we've kept to them throughout the lockdown," Tamaki argued. "If we have social distancing, I don't believe we need to be controlled. I'm not going to allow that any longer. It's in the Bill of Rights, the freedom to worship, we have that right to do that... [Ardern's] powers no longer have the right to run over the top of us. She can't do that.
"She's using the power of a public that's been duped by her deception and front."
He also lambasted the alert level 2 enforcement legislation urgently being rushed through Parliament - which will allow the Government greater power to reinforce alert level protocol - as the "most dangerous bill that's ever been placed in Parliament".
"If this bill passes, which I think it will, New Zealanders need to do something, we need to make a stand, maybe go out in the streets and let her know by numbers that we're going to fight this Government out."
"You're promoting anarchy," Garner shot back.
"It's not anarchy... we need to let this Government know we're not going to be bullied, our rights and our freedoms to work and to live... that'll be taken from us if this bill is passed," Tamaki said.
"[It's] the God Squad vs the Enforcement Squad, a highway to hell," Garner joked.
In a statement to Newshub, NZ Police confirmed officers will be "engaging with Destiny Church to encourage them to work within the guidelines required under alert level 2".
"The vast majority of people in New Zealand have followed the rules over the last six-and-a-half weeks and it has made a real difference," said a police spokesperson.
"As we move to alert level 2 it is important that everyone familiarises themselves with the restrictions to understand what they can and can’t do and how best to protect themselves and their loved ones. At alert level 2 there are still restrictions and we need to continue sticking to the rules. We need to stay safe and this means not holding mass gatherings, including for religious services.
"Police will be engaging with individuals and organisations who need help with understanding the new restrictions and will continue to take an education-led approach."