Covid-19 church restrictions changed after Hillsong's Brian Houston claims discrimination

Brian Houston of HillsongFOX News

Covid rules around church services have been relaxed after Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston accused authorities of discrimination.

In New South Wales (NSW), home to the Sydney-based Hillsong, up to 300 people were allowed to attend a wedding but church services could not exceed 100 people. 

Regulations were even more relaxed for sporting events, with 4,000 people a day attending the Bathurst 1000 car race last week. 

Earlier this week, Houston accused the NSW authorities of unfairly discriminating against churches, and called on Christians to "take a stand" against the restrictions. 

"It's time church leaders unite to take a stand. We are all committed to keeping people safe, but it seems churches are not even being considered for a steady easing of restrictions," Houston wrote on his Instagram page.

On Twitter, he added, "Do you think people are not friendly at weddings? It is getting to the point where it is discrimination." 

In another post, he said: "Churches can be trusted to abide by the rules, as we have done every step of the way." 

He then appeared on The Today Show, where he said that community event numbers were "growing", and people attending football games were "cheering and hugging and spitting and high fiving" while "there has been absolutely no change to churches."

He said that although some people do not feel ready to return to church yet, others are "dying to get back there."

"Mental health, as we all know, and health generally, wellbeing is a big, big thing," he said.

"Isolation doesn't help that at all. Church, part of what we do, is community and connection. I know a lot of people just longing for that sense of community and connection."

Following the criticism, NSW has now updated its official guidance for churches to permit 300 people at services "or one visitor per 4 square metres of space (excluding staff), whichever is less."

Weddings in a place of worship will be capped at 150 people.

The changes come into effect on Friday.