Destiny Church says the Department of Corrections is breaching the Treaty of Waitangi by refusing to let it into prisons.
About 2000 people crowded the front lawn of Parliament yesterday afternoon demanding the church’s Man Up and Legacy programmes be introduced into prisons.
But the department said the programme was not banned at all; Destiny Church just had not applied.
At the rally, Destiny Church-goers gathered from around the country. Their calls to action emblazoned on their clothing, and on flags waving high above the crowd.
Applause met the church’s leader, Brian Tamaki, as he addressed the crowd.
His message was to let Destiny Church programmes into prisons.
“Man Up isn’t a programme: It’s more than a programme, it’s a lifestyle.”
The programmes were designed for prisoners by Destiny Church, he said.
The Man Up’guide, seen by RNZ, encouraged men to show vulnerability, open up, and explore who they were.
But it also suggested homosexuality was a “dysfunction” alongside molestation and rape, and suggested medication for stress should be replaced by “faith”.
The programme had the full support of the crowd.
“We support the kaupapa that Bishop is leading,” said one attendee.
“We’re here to ask that we be let in [to prisons].”
Mr Tamaki said the church was the victim of religious discrimination.
“Which is a breach of human rights and the Treaty of Waitangi, and it’s also offensive to me and all these people that have had their lives changed.”
When asked what stage the submission was in, he insisted Destiny Church had lodged a formal application.
But the Department of Corrections said in a statement the church had never lodged a formal application to run programmes in prisons.
It said it met with the church to discuss the programme last year and asked for a proposal in writing but never received one.
Man Up director Caine Warren said attendees in the crowd were evidence the project worked.
RNZ asked Brian Tamaki to expand on the costs of the project, however the interview was then ended.
Destiny Church lodged a complaint with the Waitangi Tribunal yesterday, which RNZ confirmed.