The City of Toronto has refused to grant a Christian organisation Voices of the Nations (VON) a permit to use Yonge-Dandas Square for their annual music festival next year stating that praising Jesus in their song’s lyrics contravenes with the city policy against “proselytizing.”
Yonge-Dundas Square is a public square situated at the southeast corner of the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street East in Downtown Toronto and is the first public square in Canada that’s maintained through a public-private partnership. Being a prominent landmark in Toronto and one of the city’s prime tourist attractions, Yonge-Dundas Square is often referred to as “Toronto’s Times Square” and has hosted numerous public events, performances and art displays since its completion in 2002.
All manner of artists and community organizations apply to use the space at Yonge & Dundas Square every year. Voices of the Nations, an organization founded in 2006 to unite and promote diversity within the Christian Community by showcasing its mosaic of fine arts and music, has held a concert there for the last five years without issue.
However, when Voices of the Nations applied for a permit to perform at the square again next year, they were turned down flat. When VON’s Events Coordinator Leye Oyelani contacted the Square’s Manager of Events Natalie Belman by phone to apply for the next year’s permit, he was told that a permit would not be issued and to look for a venue elsewhere, because apparently singing the name of Jesus in the public square amounts to “proselytizing,” which is contrary to city policy.
The Rebel Media, which the first to report on it, uploaded the phone conversation between Natalie Belman and Mr. Oyelani:
Mr. Oyelani has recorded the conversation:
NB: I’ve already advised Peter that we’re not going to be permitting you guys this year for next year, um
LO: Oh wow
NB: Because of the proselytizing on the square. And that’s a big issue for us. Um, I know that in the past year that we’ve had discussions with you, at least my predecessor did.
LO: Oh really
NB: Um, had meetings with Peter, with regards to proselytizing, and outlined very specifically what’s allowed and what’s not allowed at the square, and um, that was not adhered to this year.
LO: Oh, Natalie, sorry just to clarify, did we proselytise this year at the event?
LO: We did?
NB: Um, yes. Well, your performers did.
LO: One of our performers did? OK, in terms of proselytizing, what do you mean? Do you mean like speaking or just singing? Or…
NB: It doesn’t matter if it’s speaking or singing. Either way, if you are “Praising Jesus”, and “Praise the Lord”, and “There is no God like Jehovah”, that type of thing, that’s proselytizing…
LO: So are you saying that, is this definite…
NB: No, this is definite, this is done.
LO: Oh, so it’s def…
NB: You guys were given warnings after last year and spoken to, and nothing changed. And you were spoken to on site and weren’t willing to make any changes during the proselytising, so no, we cant risk putting you back up on stage again.
The Rebel Media noted that it is not the first time that the city officials denied Christians the right to openly express their beliefs at the square. Just last year, a Christian pastor named Rev. David Lynn was charged by police with illegal “busking” for singing Christian songs at Yonge -Dundas Square. More at Source
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