NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins blames 'the left' for criticism of church photo

Judith Collins has denied staging a photo-op on Sunday where she was snapped on her knees praying in a church.

The National Party leader, who's been open about her belief in God since her maiden speech to Parliament in 2002, voted at St Thomas Tamaki, a church outside of her electorate. Before casting her ballot she prayed alone in the chapel.

"I don't pray in church every day," she told The AM Show on Wednesday. "In that particular instance on Sunday I was in an Anglican church - I'm a confirmed Anglican - the priest said, 'Would you like to pop in and have a prayer Judith?' I said yes.

"I'm doing that, next thing I turn around and the whole media pack's there looking at me. What am I supposed to do? Get up and order them out? Is it my job to do that?... 

"I didn't expect them to come charging into the chapel. But look, they were there. I'm not going to order them out. I didn't invite them in. I was simply asked by the priest."

Stuff reported on the day one of Collins' handlers actually checked with church staff whether it was okay for the media pack to follow her into the church. 

Judith Collins on The AM Show.
Judith Collins on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

Criticism came swiftly. Leighton Baker, leader of the New Conservatives, told TVNZ Collins was "concerned New Conservatives are taking a bit of the vote", and NZ First leader Winston Peters quoted a Bible verse which suggested prayer should be done in private, not "standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others".

Despite the leaders of the Labour and Green parties having nothing to say publicly about Collins' prayer session, she said "the left" had been "really obnoxious" about it. It's not clear who she was referring to, but social media site Twitter - a favourite for left-leaning politics nerds - was awash with criticism after an RNZ journalist tweeted a photo. 

"I don't know why people are so quick to pick up on that I'm a Christian," said Collins. "If I was Muslim or Hindu or any other religion, would that be a big deal? I don't think it is, is it? The other thing is I'm a liberal Anglican. So, you know, my views are my own - I don't impose them on others... I will stand up for what I believe in."

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson voted in a library on Monday, and even had to queue. 

"Grateful for the media who stayed around while I waited in a line lol," she tweeted.