A group of elderly women, some with arthritis, were recently kicked out of the Central Southland Presbyterian Parish in New Zealand where they have been holding a tai chi exercise class for five years.
Parish council clerk John Willis reportedly told the elderly women that the classes were a threat to the church's "spiritual wellbeing."
"[The parish council] decided because tai chi had religious links we'd have to go," the group's teacher told The Southland Times.
"Maybe it did hundreds of years ago when it was started by a Taoist monk, but the classes I teach are for older ladies and arthritis sufferers and have absolutely no religious significance," the teacher stated.
The teacher described Willis as "quite rude," and added, "I've been going to church since I was 13, but I won't be going back, that's how much this has affected me."
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For his part, Willis claimed that he wrote an apology letter to the class for his approach, and said he did not mean to offend them.
Willis admitted that the council knew that there was no religious instruction at the tai chi exercise classes, but added, "As church leaders we need to look after everyone in the parish, and their spiritual wellbeing. The first commandment is that we must honor God and have no other God before us, and having come from Taoism tai chi is promoting another God."
Willis claimed the teacher had declined an offer not to call the class "tai chi," and instead moved the class to a new location, noted the BBC.
Willis then expressed some sadness mixed with piety to The Southland Times, "We're saddened that we've upset some people and that they've taken it personally, because that's not what we wanted. Sometimes in upholding the truth people get hurt, but I hope they will come back to the church."
Sources: The Southland Times, BBC
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