Humanists, Skeptics Criticize New Youth For Christ Rec Center

A Christian organization is receiving criticism in a Canadian paper and elsewhere for its establishment of a recreation center directed towards troubled youth.

Youth For Christ will soon be opening up a rec center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which has stirred attacks from residents via the Winnipeg Free Press. Complaints ranged from a preference for a secular facility directed towards helping disadvantaged youth to concerns over it being built via government assistance.

“I agree with the numerous criticisms being leveled at Mayor Sam Katz and Youth For Christ,” said Jeffrey Olsson of the Humanist Association of Manitoba to CP. “This Youth for Christ center is yet another example of government intrusion into private citizens religious lives because they have no other recreation center to use.”

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Olsson compared the YFC facility to that of past efforts by Canadian Christian organizations to evangelize aboriginal children, which he said resulted in thousands of disaffected youth.

Meanwhile, Gem Newman of Winnipeg Skeptics said that while he did not oppose YFC establishing their center, he was concerned about the government involvement.

“Instead of providing the youth in the area with a place they can feel comfortable, whatever their religious or philosophical inclination, the mayor has instead effectively given Youth For Christ a megaphone for their religious message,” said Newman.

Despite the criticisms, some commenters who submitted their opinions to the Winnipeg Free Press defended the rec center.

“Seriously, people? At the end of the day, this provides an option for many young people who have no other options for safe recreation, safe haven, or 'normal' interaction,” said a contributor by the screen name “wpgreader2.”

“I have been going to their previous location for the last 10 years, since I was 15. Never once was I indoctrinated or pressured to give donations,” said another contributor known as “ddavid.”

This is not the first time YFC has found itself making headlines in Winnipeg. In November, the organization opposed the establishment of a massage parlor near their soon to open facility.

John Courtney, executive director for the Winnipeg office of YFC, told the Winnipeg Free Press that he and many concerned parents believed the parlor would be used for prostitution.

Founded in the 1940s, Youth For Christ is an international organization focused on youth evangelism. The Reverend Billy Graham was its first full time staff member.

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