An event organised by a group accused of spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 virus is to be hosted at a Whanganui church hall.
Voices for Freedom - a self-described "non-political grassroots organisation" is hosting an event dubbed "Covid-19: Fact or Fiction" at St Paul's Church on Thursday night.
The group describes the event as an "important and timely presentation", where topics including the Covid-19 vaccine, informed consent and "alternative measures" will be discussed.
In an advertisement for the event, the venue for the presentation was not disclosed, with attendees asked to RSVP to the organisers to receive details of the venue.
Upon RSVPing, the Chronicle received a response confirming the location, which included a disclaimer stating the views expressed in the presentation "do not necessarily reflect the views or support of St Paul's Church".
When approached by the Chronicle yesterday asking why it was hosting the group at its venue, a church spokesperson would not answer any questions on the matter, except to say it simply hired out the venue to the group.
"We hire our venue out to people who want to use it," the spokesperson said. "At this stage, we still do have freedom of speech and opinion."
Voices for Freedom was founded last year and is connected to the Advance New Zealand Party, which campaigned against Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.
The group's founder Claire Deeks ran for the party at the general election, and operated a significant amount of the party's social media, running livestreams alongside party leader Billy Te Kahika.
A leaflet published and distributed by Voices for Freedom drew headlines earlier this year, when the Advertising Standards Authority found that claims printed on the leaflet were unsubstantiated.
The leaflet listed a variety of claims, from saying it was unknown if the Covid-19 vaccine could give you cancer, to stating people are dying after receiving the jab.
The Advertising Standards Authority Complaints Board upheld in part complaints about the leaflet. The board said six of the eight facts in the leaflet had not been adequately substantiated.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Whanganui Medical Officer of Health Dr Patrick O'Connor said vaccine hesitancy was what would hold the world back from a return to normality.
"I can tell you that we are facing a worldwide emergency and we have a vaccine that can help. The sooner we roll it out in the community, the better."
"The greater our vaccine hesitancy, the slower will be our return to some form of normality - and there'll be more damage along the way."
Voices for Freedom was contacted for comment.