Christian Music Festival Can’t Use Public Square in Toronto for Invoking Jesus

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | November 10, 2015 | 3:20 PM EST

(AP Photo)

A Christian music festival has been given the boot by the board of Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto for what it says is a violation of its rules against proselytizing.

“A Christian music festival is crying foul over a decision by the board of Yonge-Dundas Square to cancel its permit for 2016 because of claims the group violated terms of its contract by proselytizing,” Inside Toronto reported on Nov. 3.



“The festival, Voices of the Nations, has been using the publicly owned square for nearly a decade for what festival director Peter Ruparelia said is a showcase for the music of artists from various denominations and cultures, but the group is no longer welcome, according to local councilor and board-member Kristyn Wong-Tam, because it has ignored repeated warnings by the board not to use the stage to proselytize a particular religion,” the news outlet reported.

“‘I’m not at liberty to get into the specifics of the reason why they’re not welcome back to the square,’ Wong-Tam told the news outlet. ‘Staff did raise with them on two separate occasions over two years that they needed them not to proselytize and there’s a contract they singed in guidelines for usage...They know why they’ve been asked to find alternative space. There is a process provided to them on how they should appeal and it’s clearly outlined.’”

Inside Toronto reported that the concert director told them other religious groups use the square.

“’There’s been an Islamic group that has been chanting, there’s been a Hari Krishna group in the square,” said Ruparelia, who added that no proselytizing was done in speeches, but “There is no God like Jehovah” was repeated in a song during the concert, which took place in August.

The Canadian-based pro-life website,, launched a petition last week to protest the board’s action and on Monday Ruparelia and representatives of the website delivered the petition with more than 40,000 signatures to Toronto Mayor John Tory’s office. quoted Yonge-Dundas Square manager Natalie Belman in a commentary as saying that singing about Jesus amounts to proselytizing.

“This is nothing more than blatant discrimination against Christians,” posted in a commentary on Nov. 3. “Can you imagine the City Official saying something like this to a Muslim or Jewish group and getting away with it? 

“Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto need to hear that Christians have as much right to be in public spaces as anybody else,” said in the commentary. “It’s time to join together and urge the mayor and the city to reverse this outrageous decision.” 

“As Christians we need to come together and unite as one,” Ruparelia said in a video posted by after the petition was delivered. “And what better cause now … this cause is to unite the body of Christ.”

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