Even churches can create noise pollution - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Even churches can create noise pollution

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Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 1:13 pm | Updated: 2:25 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Most of the time, churches and other places of worship are blessings to neighborhoods. They serve as social centers, sources of bountiful generosity and anchors for community bonding. Of course, churches are so central to the spiritual fabrics of American society that they receive special protection from government interference under the First Amendment and various federal laws.

Most of the time, churches and other places of worship are blessings to neighborhoods. They serve as social centers, sources of bountiful generosity and anchors for community bonding. Of course, churches are so central to the spiritual fabrics of American society that they receive special protection from government interference under the First Amendment and various federal laws.

But churches also can create stresses on neighborhood peace with the traffic and crowds they attract. There are occasions when a church forgets its own moral obligation to seek harmony rather than disruption. Government should tread with extreme care when such disputes arise, but there are rare moments when intervention to protect private property rights is required.

Mesa homeowner Brad Bensen has the misfortune of running into such a situation with a church just 10 feet away from his back wall. Ministerios La Gran Comision is located in a strip mall that favors Christian rock music for its services - loud rock music - and the church has a habit of worshipping during hours when most of the rest of us are still asleep.

If this were a bar, a nightclub or even a mattress store, Bensen could rightly expect Mesa to enforce the city noise ordinance to turn down the music. However, as Tribune writer Sonu Munshi reported Sunday, Mesa's noise ordinance completely exempts churches.

Mesa had the best intention of protecting churches from irascible neighbors who might try to use a noise ordinance to interfere with the right to worship. But Bensen has tried again and again to reach a private solution with the church that never lasts.

The city will need to narrowly tailor any addition of churches to the noise ordinance so that it can't be abused as a weapon against reasonable practices that some people might not like - such as outdoor Easter pageants or candlelight vigils.

But there's simply no reason for Bensen or anyone else to be woken at 4 a.m. by a worship service next door. Ministerios La Gran Comision can continue to rock on, as long as it keeps the music within the church walls.

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