News / Toronto

Christian music festival banned from performing in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square

Group found to be proselytizing instead of just celebrating culture, square managers say.

Christian music festival Voices of the Nations has been banned from performing at Yonge-Dundas Square because the city-sponsored board that manages the square prohibits proselytizing.

Voices of the Nations has been organizing concerts at the square since 2006 but has been denied a permit for its planned 2016 show. An online petition calling the decision an “outrage” began circulating on Friday. It has nearly 20,000 signatures.

David Lynn of Christ’s Forgiveness Ministries, who has been involved with Voices of the Nations’ previous concerts, said many Christians are angered.

“This is the constant pressure that many Christians feel, that they can’t be themselves in a public square, or else they’ll just be banished,” he said.

Lynn is known for preaching at Yonge and Dundas, and was once charged with busking without a license. The charge was later dropped. He has preached at Yonge and Dundas, during Pride, that people living homosexual lifestyles will go to hell.

Some videos of past Voices of the Nations concerts appear to include proselytizing by Lynn himself.

He gave a speech, or sermon, at the 2013 concert asking the crowd to dedicate their lives to Jesus and come to his ministry. 

However, Lynn said organizers made sure there were no speeches in 2015 because of the Yonge-Dundas Square policy that bans proselytizing. They were later told there were no problems with the songs they’d chosen, Lynn said.

Lynn released audio on his YouTube channel of a conversation Voices of the Nations organizers had with a Yonge-Dundas Square manager.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s speaking on singing,” the manager says in the recording. “Either way, if you’re praising Jesus or praising the lord, and there’s no God like Jehova, that type of thing, that’s proselytizing.”

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is on the square’s board, would not confirm exactly what the festival group did that was considered “proselytizing,” but said it had happened repeatedly and the group had been warned more than once.

Wong-Tam said many religious groups have rented the space and are permitted to do so again because they celebrate their religion and culture without proselytizing.

The policy against proselytizing is in place to make sure that all people, regardless of their faith, feel welcome, she said.

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