By Don Hutchinson
By now, you’ve likely seen the video of the street preacher being asked by police to move along after setting up on a street corner in Toronto during that city’s Annual Pride Parade (formerly the Gay Pride Parade), which was held on July 1 of this year. If not, there’s a link in the next paragraph. The street preacher’s name is David Lynn. I’ve read/heard him variously referred to as Mr. Lynn, Pastor Lynn and Reverend Lynn but I don’t know him so will refer to him simply as David Lynn. In any event, whether he is Mr. Lynn, Pastor Lynn or Reverend Lynn is irrelevant to his right to express his religious beliefs, as constitutionally guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
LifeSiteNews sought my comment on the situation, publishing the following in a story on reactions to what had taken place:
At the same time, Don Hutchinson, general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), told LifeSiteNews that while he did “not agree with some of the comments made by the police officers,” he thought that the police officers took “reasonable steps to keep the peace.” Prior to the arrival of the police, Lynn had been surrounded by enraged pride participants, with whom he had attempted to have a back-and-forth dialogue.
I’ve taken a little heat for that comment so to be fair, at least to me, here’s the full text of my remarks to LifeSiteNews:
I was not present at the event and have only the video footage that has been made publicly available by David Lynn on which to assess what took place and make comment.
Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of religion, which has been defined by the Supreme Court of Canada to include the expression of religious beliefs; however, the court has made it clear that no Charter right is absolute. The video footage of this incident appears to indicate that David Lynn was attempting to peacefully share the gospel in a potentially hostile environment, that then became hostile. David Lynn appears to have done a good job of keeping his cool. The throwing of water could be considered a physical assault, particularly since David Lynn had electrical equipment on or about his person.
The section 2(a) freedom to share the gospel peacefully and the Charter section 2(c) guaranteed freedom of peaceful assembly for those attending the gay pride event were in conflict at that point of confrontation. Police officers are charged with keeping the peace. Judges are charged with undertaking the formal process to balance competing rights. The police officers took steps to keep the peace.
I stand for the right of Canadians to share the gospel. I also recognize that a comparatively small group of police officers charged with keeping the peace in a large gathering cannot be expected to act as ongoing security for a street preacher. They can be expected to take reasonable steps to keep the peace. I do not agree with some of the comments made by the police officers, but understand their action in first dispersing the hostile members of the crowd and then requesting that David Lynn move on to avoid the potential for further confrontation that might require police intervention.
I’m not disappointed by LifeSiteNews shortening my comments to fit their story. That’s what the media does for operational reasons; although, sometimes doing so can leave the comment without its context.
And, I’m not disappointed by the actions of the police. They were in a difficult situation and kept the peace.
I am, however, disappointed in two groups of people.
The first is the City Council in Toronto. Year after year the organizers of Toronto’s Pride Parade have demonstrated that they are either not able or not willing to keep participants from breaking the law; openly and unabashedly breaking the law. Some commentators have asked why the police are not arresting those who walk around naked and/or engage in simulated sexual acts in public. If this behaviour was to take place at Caribana, the CHIN International Picnic or Toronto International Film Festival (all events that have had city council comment on the need for organizers to maintain control of their events in compliance with the law, the latter in regard to Sean Penn chainsmoking through an indoor media conference) no doubt people would be charged or arrested. The police are trying to keep the peace, something which arrests in the unruly environment of Pride events means letting this public lewd behaviour go. But City Council can insist organizers clean up their act or risk losing the opportunity to hold their festival. They’ve done it before with other groups.
This year, apparently the Canada Day parade and festivities were supplanted by Pride Week and the Pride Parade. City of Toronto celebrations were moved north to Mel Lastman Square in North York. C’mon City Council. What are you thinking?
The second group of people with whom I am disappointed are the activists and leaders in the LGBTTIQQ2SA (the acronym noted by Pride Toronto – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirited, Allies) communities, including the LGBT media, several of whom have regularly challenged me to stand up and educate the Church community when there have been expressions of discrimination toward the LGBT community (I’ll stick with the shorter acronym).
We are, indeed, as human beings ALL made in the image of God. David Lynn was preaching that message. We ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. David Lynn was preaching that message. None of us is perfect and we ALL have room for personal and spiritual growth. David Lynn was preaching that message. David Lynn was not singling out, discriminating against or condemning anyone in the LGBT community or the LGBT community generally. The video shows that he was attempting to engage in a meaningful dialogue about spiritual things from his perspective as a Christian with a man in a blue shirt who was respectfully challenging Lynn’s assertions. I have read that Lynn’s ‘booth’ had a banner nearby that stated “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, KJV), which could perhaps be considered provocative in the environment of the Pride Parade; but certainly not worthy of the video recorded vitriol that was thrown his way, along with a liquid assault. David Lynn was not engaging in an expression of hatred. Some was certainly directed his way.
Where are the leaders from the LGBT community who will stand up for the protection of the Charter rights of David Lynn and people like him who wish to peaceably and non-offensively share their faith in the public square of Canada’s free and democratic society? Where are those leaders from the LGBT community who have called for respectful dialogue between Christian leaders and the LGBT community when respectful dialogue is vehemently rejected by members of the LGBT community?
You know me. And, you know the EFC. We have consistently and respectfully presented the position of the Evangelical community without being denigrating, derogatory or condemnatory of LGBT individuals or public policy arguments. Now, as you’ve called on me – both personally and in print – I am calling on you. As Canadians we need to respectfully get along, which means both parties have to do our part.