- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Springfield has approved a new noise ordinance over the objections of an attorney for a street preacher who was arrested after delivering loud sermons downtown.

Backers said the rules approved Monday won’t restrict what people say, only their volume, The Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/2jqsrW9 ) reports. Mayor Bob Stephens described them as “content neutral.”

But Dee Wampler, an attorney for street preacher Aaron Brummitt, has argued that the council was “messing with religious speech.” Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky raised similar concerns in casting the sole vote against the ordinance. She said the ordinance could “potentially target religious speech and the First Amendment.”

Brummitt was charged with multiple municipal ordinance violations in 2013 after a complaint about his amplifying equipment in public spaces. He reached an agreement in 2014 to have his charges deferred in exchange for restrictions on volume and where and how often he preached. Police, however, have continued to hear complaints since then.

Besides regulations on the use of amplified sound devices, the rules aim to make the law that governs noise and peace disturbances less confusing for residents as well as police and prosecutors. Previously, there were separate provisions for residential and business districts, which made the law difficult to enforce in “mix use” areas like downtown.

Among other things, the law now prohibits loud noises from private property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. in all areas in Springfield.

“To me, this is about volume, not restriction of speech or anything like that,” Councilman Mike Schilling said. “I’ve lived here over 30 years, and, personally, I’ve experienced a great increase in lack of audio serenity.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com


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