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Arise Church’s Lawyers Are Using The OIA To Get Witness Statements
"My stomach dropped when I saw it," a witness told Webworm.
Arise Church’s lawyers are using the Official Information Act to get copies of statements and interviews witnesses gave during last year’s investigation into the church.
Webworm has been contacted by a number of witnesses who gave interviews to the Labour Inspectorate last year about the church’s treatment of staff and interns. They are now worried the church wants to come after them.
(You can read more about the Labour Inspectorate here, but basically it’s the official public body in New Zealand that enforces and monitors minimum employment standards).
Those that emailed me had just received a message from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE):
My name is Cameron and I’m a Senior Ministerial Services Advisor at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
I’m writing to you because MBIE has received an Official Information Act (OIA) from Arise Church. The request is for a copy of the witness statement and interview (if there was one) you provided to the Labour Inspectorate as part of its investigation into Arise Church.
The OIA allows people to request official information held by government agencies, including MBIE.
Please be aware that MBIE must release the requested information unless there is a good reason for withholding it.
“My stomach dropped when I saw it,” one victim told Webworm.
MBIE went on to say they would redact witnesses names and addresses — but those that spoke to Webworm were concerned they would be easily identifiable going on their story alone.
I reached out to MBIE with a series of questions, including asking them if they had any concerns a church that had victimized hundreds of people would use their testimonies to further victimize them. I wanted to know what actions they would be taking to protect witnesses from any further abuse.
Simon Humphries, Head of Compliance and Enforcement at the Labour Inspectorate released this statement to Webworm:
“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responding to an Official Information Request (OIA) from Arise Church’s legal representatives requesting copies of the witness statements and interviews (if there was one) provided to the Labour Inspectorate as part of its investigation into Arise Church.
Under the Official information Act, MBIE is required to respond within legislated timeframes and can only withhold information on limited grounds. MBIE has reached out to witnesses to assess their views on the information that MBIE may release under the OIA. This is currently under consideration.
It’s important to note that witnesses were informed by the investigating inspector prior to recording statements that the information they provide to the Labour Inspectorate may be released where appropriate or where the applicable law requires that we disclose that information.
The Labour Inspectorate is available to assist witnesses who may have questions or concerns. The support offered may differ depending on the concerns raised.”
In short, it sounds like Arise’s lawyers will be getting the information they want.
Yes, witnesses were informed the testimony they gave at the time could become public at some point. But it’s a lot more intimidating when Arise’s lawyers are the ones specifically going after it, well before it’s made public in any way. I think it’s fair to say no-one has wanted this information except Arise and its legal representatives.
Webworm has talked to one witness who expressed their concerns to MBIE. They are yet to hear anything back.
“Identifying me depends on how much information they redact so if it’s just my name and contact information there’s a good chance they’ll figure it out.”
In short, Arise church keeps being Arise church.
And its disgraced former leader John Cameron has returned to social media, making a series of posts showing that he clearly sees himself as the victim (as opposed to the hundreds of victims at Arise during his watch).
On a single day last month Cameron sent out a variety of tweets proclaiming his martyrdom.
These are my favourites:
Bad things happen to good people.
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.
Good people sometimes have to live with the heartache of injustice and pain.
God sees our pain. Especially the pain or persecution we endure because we follow him.
If you've been ostracised, maligned, hurt or mistreated because you follow Jesus - God sees you.
Those martyred for their faith surround the throne of the Lamb in heaven. They are held in special honour. God sees you.
It was never my intention to be rattling on about Arise church for several years.
I know it’s a very specific story to New Zealand, and many Webworm readers have never even set foot in Aotearoa.
But Arise is a megachurch model found in many places — and so their story reflects a much bigger story than one found at the bottom of the planet in New Zealand.
I find it abhorrent that Arise’s former leader still refuses to take responsibility for what happened under his watch. And I find it abhorrent that Arise church continues to find ways to psychologically mess with former staff, interns and members.
Many of them left years ago, wanting nothing more to do with the place. Arise gave approximately zero shits about what the church had done.
But now Arise’s lawyers appear to have taken an active interest in those who made complaints.
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It also really helps if you share this story. If you’re as concerned about this as I am, others can read today’s newsletter at this link: https://www.webworm.co/p/ariselawyers - so please share it!
And if you find ourself going “what the hell is Arise church?” then this three part series will fill you in:
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part I
How New Zealand’s largest megachurch lost its way
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part 2
Assault and Abuse at Arise Church
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part 3
Alleged sexual harassment and NDAs at Arise megachurch