A now-deleted Facebook post by controversial Destiny Church founder Brian Tamaki has attracted a handful of disturbing comments calling for the assassination of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
On Thursday, April 16, the outspoken bishop shared some of his political musings on his public Facebook page, claiming "political powers that have been demonically corrupted can harm a nation and its families beyond belief", before lambasting the Government for the legalisation of abortion in March.
"When abortion is legalised, Jesus [Christ's] name is removed from all parliamentary prayer," Tamaki wrote.
The post was accompanied by a photo of the Beehive in Wellington and another featuring Ardern and former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was incumbent from 1999 to 2008.
Tamaki's rant, which amassed more than 600 likes, also received a handful of responses that called for Ardern's assassination.
One comment uncovered by Newshub read, "can't hack a women [sic] in power you thug", to which another responded: "But can assinate [sic] her and her thugs how about that".
The same woman also commented on another thread, to which a male follower had commented, "[yup] shoot them both maggots". She pitched in: "Need assassinating... both of them".
The topic of death threats was raised by a reporter during Wednesday's daily press conference. The journalist asked Ardern whether she had any response to increased vitriol on social media, particularly during the COVID-19 response.
"That's something that does come with the job and I have not allowed myself to be distracted by anything throughout this period, including statements made on social media," the Prime Minister stated, before swiftly moving on.
In a statement, Destiny Church said "in no way" does it nor Tamaki condone "any suggestion or inference that our Prime Minister and her Ministers should be harmed or worse assassinated.
"These comments are deplorable at best," a Destiny Church spokeswoman said.
In March, Tamaki made a rallying call to his worshippers, claiming that a national day of prayer held by Destiny Church would help protect his followers against the virus. The self-proclaimed apostle, who is married to Vision New Zealand leader and pastor Hannah Tamaki, also announced their churches will remain open throughout the pandemic to fulfil a need for "faith, hope and the presence of God" during a time of fear.
The Destiny Church co-leaders have long attracted controversy for their conservative, patriarchal values and extreme beliefs on topics such as homosexuality and immigration, with Brian Tamaki infamously blaming the LGBTQ community for natural disasters.
In February, Hannah Tamaki's former campaign manager Jevan Goulter shared a violent post regarding a prominent Three broadcaster, the attack stemming from comments made about Tamaki's stance against homosexuality.
In response to the comments, Goulter called the broadcaster a "rancid rotton [sic] stuffed pig with blood pouring out of her eyes" who should "show NZ what voluntary euthanasia looks like" on his social media. Tamaki later condemned the post and fired Goulter.
In a statement to Newshub on Wednesday, police said: "New Zealand Police takes all threats to individuals or organisations seriously. Our message is that threatening a person is a serious crime and people can expect to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted. This is true regardless of who is making the threat or what medium they use. Making these threats can cause serious harm to the victims, whether it is acted upon or not.
"Police use a range of methods for monitoring potentially harmful, dangerous or criminal activity online, and encourage people to report anything of concern to police immediately."