The Salvation Army is concerned that the Government's Health Response Bill, designed to empower police to deal with breaches of Covid-19 alert level 2 rules, does not consider spiritual wellbeing alongside physical wellbeing.
"This bill worries us deeply," Māori Ministry director Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson said.
"There is no allowance or trust for religious gatherings, which further indicates this government's low view of spirituality as a fundamental part of overall wellbeing."
The Salvation Army acknowledged that changes had been made to the bill, including the removal of references to marae, but believed it showed a lack of trust in iwi, hapū and community groups to work within the Covid-19 guidelines, despite the proven leadership of Māori in protecting the health and wellbeing of whānau during levels 4 and 3.
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"This bill needs further scrutiny, as it does not align with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or the rule of law," Lt-Colonel Hutson said.
As frontline welfare responders to the economic and social effects of the Covid-19 crisis, the Salvation Army had seen first-hand the struggle many New Zealanders were facing with emotional and financial needs, and societal and family disconnection.
Churches provided love and support, especially for those who were isolated, vulnerable, and relied on their church for social connection. The army considered Sunday church services an essential service, as they offered spiritual health, a vital component of wellbeing.
While most businesses, schools, restaurants, cinemas, cafés and retail outlets had been given the freedom to operate with the necessary restrictions and safety measures in place, churches had not.
The army was asking the Government to reconsider allowing the numbers at church services to increase in line with other social events under level 2.