The Voices of the Nations, a Christian music festival, has performed at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, since 2006. However, the festival was denied a permit for its 2016 show for proselytizing in the past (videos below).
"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," David Lynn, a controversial street preacher who supports the festival, told MetroNews.ca
Lynn posted a video on YouTube of a phone conversation that Leye Oyelami, Voices of the Nations' events coordinator, reportedly had with Natalie Belman, the square's manager of events, on Oct. 23.
During the call, Belman explains that the proselytizing has been an issue in the past discussions with Voices of the Nations, but proselytizing was still done by one of the performers during the 2015 show. Oyelami asks if the proselytizing was singing or speaking.
Belman replies, "Well, it doesn't matter if it's speaking or singing. Either way, if you're praising Jesus, and 'praise the Lord,' and 'There's no God like Jehovah,' that type of thing, that's proselytizing."
In response, Peter Paresh, director of Voices of the Nations, told LifeSiteNews:
The city official is not going up against me or my organization, but against the most high God. She's basically saying, "Sorry, but you can't have the name of Jesus being spoken from the stage on Dundas Square." When they go up against the most high God, in my opinion, I have to fight for the name of Jesus. Whatever happens, I will fight for the name of Jesus.
The Voices of the Nations has created an online petition to protest their exclusion from the square.
The square's Performance & Display Policy, which is posted on the City of Toronto's website, reads: "Performances/Displays must not advocate a specific political or religious point of view for the purpose of proselytizing. Any religious or political reference should be in the context of a larger cultural event."
However, Ontario's Human Rights Code states: "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability."
Voices Of the Nations 2015