Brian Tamaki says religion getting in the way of Jacinda Ardern's socialist 'ambition'

Brian Tamaki thinks the Government is picking on churches because religion is "an obstacle" to Jacinda Ardern's plan to turn New Zealand into a "socialist state".

The controversial head of Destiny Church, a regular critic of the Labour-NZ First Government, earlier this week vowed to break the level 2 rules which restrict most gatherings - including those at churches - to just 10 people. 

"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'," he told The AM Show on Wednesday. "To hell with it, or to heaven with it."

Churches overseas have been vectors of transmission for COVID-19, the deadly disease which has killed more than 310,000 people and seen countries enforce strict lockdowns to halt its spread.

Health Minister David Clark - himself a man of the cloth, having been a Presbyterian minister before entering politics - told Parliament earlier this week the restrictions were necessary to prevent an outbreak in New Zealand, one of only a handful of countries which has managed to get transmission under control.

"People often attend services of worship for fellowship reasons," Dr Clark said. "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."

Tamaki, who styles himself as a bishop and apostle, told Newshub there will be members of other Christian denominations attending his service on Sunday, including Catholics and Anglicans, as well as "non-church people". 

"They feel, like me, that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Ministry of Health, they either don't trust churches to follow the rules, or churches simply don't have a part in the New Zealand she's building. 

"You've got to remember religion is an obstacle to a socialist state's ambition. She is a little bit suspicious - but it's more than you know, happenstance that she's treating the church so obviously like this."

Jacinda Ardern donned a hijab in the wake of the 2019 terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.
Jacinda Ardern donned a hijab in the wake of the 2019 terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. Photo credit: Getty

Before becoming an MP, Ardern was president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. But many on the left in New Zealand feel her Government has failed to make much headway in that direction, with coalition partner New Zealand First putting the handbrake on some of her party's bigger plans.

"Underneath, they're building this Marxist, state-controlled socialism that they want to put into this country and good-hearted, warm-hearted Kiwis need to make a stand," Tamaki told The AM Show.

Tamaki says he's been in touch with the police over this Sunday's service and doesn't expect any trouble - because despite his opposition to the rules, he'll be following them. Anyone coming into the church will have to abide by 2m distancing rules, while most sit in their cars like they're at a 1950s-style drive-thru movie theatre.

"They will be able to hear [the sermon] through their AM radio... they can wave and smile, but they cannot mix and mingle." 

Ardern earlier this week begged Tamaki not to break the rules. 

"We want him to listen to public advice in the same way we want everyone to. No one wants to risk an outbreak and I'm sure he wouldn't want to put his congregation at risk."