GRETNA, La. (AP) - A Metairie church’s religious rights were not violated when the sheriff’s office cited a pastor for violating the parish noise ordinance, a Jefferson Parish judge ruled.
After a hearing on Tuesday, state District Court Judge Adrian Adams denied Vintage Church’s request for an injunction to stop further citations.
The Times-Picayune/Nola.com reports (https://bit.ly/1mA489B ) that the lawsuit was spurred by a months-long dispute between the church and some of its neighbors.
In August, the church began holding its Sunday morning services in a tent while in preparation for an expansion of its building. But neighbors complain that the loud music and sermons disturb their sleep, causing vibrations throughout their homes and rattling their windows.
Neighbors have complained to Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office repeatedly in the past five months.
The church’s leader, Executive Pastor Matt Brichetto, has received two misdemeanor summons for noise ordinance violations.
Church officials and their lawyers argue that restricting the noise during the services is an infringement on their religious worship.
But Adams ruled the problem could be resolved if the church was more flexible about the timing of its services, or looked for other ways to adapt to the law.
The church plans to appeal Adams’ decision, said attorney Roy Bowes.
“One of the things that’s important for us is to prepare ourselves for the word of God,” said lead pastor Rob Wilton said. “Our music every week prepares our people to hear the Bible.”
Neighbor Tammy Donovan said she can feel the beat of the church’s drum throughout her house. Her daughter is a nurse who frequently returns home from a night shift at 7 a.m. and can’t sleep, she said.
“I find their music unbearable,” she testified. “In the past, it has started at seven in the morning and it has continued throughout the morning.”
The church has been told that before 10 a.m., they can’t use any amplified noise - no drums, no amps for their music, and no microphones for the pastor. The church has two services each Sunday morning, the first of which begins at 9 a.m. The rest of the time, the noise heard at the property line can’t exceed 60 decibels, described as the volume of a normal conversation.
Church officials say they’ve stopped using sound amplification. But in the middle of a service, the church’s pastors said it’s impossible to know when they’re exceeding 60 decibels and when they’re not.
Preaching without a microphone has left his voice strained, Wilton said.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com
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