A Safer Spaces event is coming to Pugwash.

The Sexual Health Centre of Cumberland County is joining together with the Village of Pugwash to host the event after concerns a religious gathering this month will educate attendees, including youth, that homosexuality is a sin.

“Our cultural values and beliefs are important to us and for some, indicate what is common, natural or moral in regard to sexual activities, behaviours and identities,” reads a release issued by Rene Ross, the centre’s executive director and sexual health educator, on behalf of the centre’s board of directors.

“LGBT+ organizations from across the province have done an excellent job of emphasizing the damaging impacts associated with this belief as supported by research and importantly, by youth themselves. These impacts include increased stigma, depression, suicidal thoughts and acts.”

The Maritime Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church is scheduled to host a week-long conference this month. Two American speakers at the conference represent ‘Coming Out’ Ministries, who suggest people can change their sexual orientation.

Pugwash Village Commission chairman Bill Martin says it’s unfair the village is being dragged into the controversy as it has nothing to do with the village. The conference is hosted annual at Camp Pugwash, a church facility about 10 kilometres outside the village.

“We have no more control over their activities than anyone has over an event 10 kilometres from your home,” said Martin in a press release.

Ross said news of the event has created a “great deal of anger and distress.” Many LGBT+ youth, he said, struggle in isolation as a result of damaging beliefs stigmatizing homosexuality.

“There is a need for us to highlight resources in the county, promote community inclusion, and provide education to break the isolation that so many LGBT+ youth in our county continue to experience. These resources include allied ministries across our county who make a positive difference in the lives of so many LGBT+ youth in our county by accepting and including youth, as they are,” he said.

Ross said the group has a legal right to host their event, and aggressive tactics opposing the event don’t help achieve awareness and understanding.

“It is essential that LGBT+ youth and their families know where to go for support and that they are valued in our community,” he said.

Martin said the village has received negativity regarding the event, suggesting Pugwash’s stance is anti-gay.

“On the contrary,” said Martin. “The Pride flag has flown freely for years in our beautiful seaside park.”

The Safer Spaces in Pugwash event is open to all, and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. July 18 at Cyrus Eaton Park. The two-hour session will present highlights of a recently-updated Safer Spaces training session, which the Sexual Health Centre and partners deliver across Cumberland County.