Brian Tamaki says 'very ignorant' Kiwis don't realise their rights have been 'stolen'

A defiant Destiny Church has kicked off its Sunday service with a bang.

Despite the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people under lockdown level 2 - churches not included amongst the few exceptions - leader  Brian Tamaki has got his congregation together inside and outside, where hundreds of worshippers are watching on large screens from their cars.

Social distancing was enforced indoors, with worshippers reportedly kept to groups no larger than 10 - like in restaurants - but the church flouting the 10-maximum rule imposed on churches and other places of worshop by Health Minister David Clark.

More than 100 cars pulled in to watch the sermon on big screens and honk their horns, like at a drive-in theatre, but people leaving their cars in throngs was a problem. 

Tamaki wasted no time lambasting the Government over its restrictions, intended to halt the potential spread of COVID-19. 

"Good-hearted but very ignorant New Zealanders don't realise that the greatest thing you can possess has been stolen from you - called your liberties, your freedoms and our rights," he told supporters.

"The laws and legislations [the Government] has put into place have violated our religious freedoms, to be able to open our doors to gather and to meet. We have been discriminated against while other institutions like clubs, pubs, striptease joints, restaurants, rugby matches can open. To the church, the thumb came down."

Ahead of the service, Tamaki told Newshub police had no problems with the event. 

Brian Tamaki speaks to followers at Destiny Church.
Brian Tamaki speaks to followers at Destiny Church. Photo credit: Newshub.

Destiny spokesperson Anne Williamson told Stuff the Government's COVID-19 restrictions were "anti-democratic" and it was "vital" for church services to continue.

Overseas, particularly in South Korea, church services have been blamed for helping the deadly virus spread, as worshippers mingle and sing, spreading the virus. 

Tamaki earlier told Newshub he believes Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sees religion as an "obstacle" to establishing a socialist state. 

"She is a little bit suspicious - but it's more than you know, happenstance that she's treating the church so obviously like this."

But the decision to limit churches to 10 was made by Health Minister David Clark under his new powers - and he's a former Presbyterian minister.

"People often attend services of worship for fellowship reasons," Dr Clark told Newshub last week. 

"They are there to worship, but they are also there to mix and mingle with others. The purpose of having rules around gatherings - places people gather to intermingle - is precisely to ensure we are keeping the space for people, the appropriate social distance, and keeping the virus out."

COVID-19 has killed 21 New Zealanders and more than 310,000 others around the world.