Lifesite News is reporting that the City of Toronto has refused to issue a license giving a Christian organization permission to use the Younge-Dundas Square for its music festival next year.
The group called Voices of the Nations (VON) has operated the festival since 2006 and has used the city square located in downtown Toronto since 2010. The refusal did not affect this year’s event, but prevented VON from using the area going forward.
The festival features Christian bands and dance groups. This year’s celebration held August 1 had 19 Christian groups participating.
For five years, VON has pre-booked the site for the next year’s festival with no problem. When they tried to do that this year, the Square’s Manager of Events Natalie Belman said no. She told the group they were proselytizing at the event which is against City of Toronto policy.
When VON events coordinator Leye Oyelani asked who was proselytizing, according to transcripts released to Lifesite, Belman said:
“If you’re praising Jesus, praise the Lord and there’s no God like Jehovah, that type of thing, that proselytizing.”
When Oyelani questioned how singing Christian songs could be a problem, Belman replied,
“This is a big problem. That [kind of thing], from the stage is not acceptable.”
While Toronto policy does forbid actual proselytizing on city property, which involves deliberately asking people to convert, it does not forbid people mentioning God or singing worship songs.
Lifesite pointed out that one song in particular, Days of Elijah, seems to have irked Belman as she specifically cited the phrase “There’s no God like Jehovah” which is repeated 12 times in the song. Below is one favorite rendition of this song sung by a group of Marines at Camp Pendleton in California:
David Lynn who operates a group called Christian Positive Space & Stop Bullying Christians called the refusal as nothing more than discrimination against Christians. Lynn who is in the square often, sees other groups such as Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus using the space. He says they are seemingly expressing their views and saying the names of their gods with the permission of the city.
But apparently, the only way Christians can hold events at the square is if they don’t talk or sing about Jesus and Jehovah.
Jesus warned His disciples that days were coming when they will be persecuted solely because of Jesus’ name (Matthew 24:7-10). It would be a difficult time for Christians and Jesus said many will fall away from the faith because of this.
Though this is minor compared to the persecution Christians are experiencing in other parts of the world is it a sign of the times?
Lifesite News has started a petition urging Toronto City council to reverse its ban.