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Phoenix loses legal battle over church bellsPhoenix messy yard cops lose the church bell battle!
Phoenix loses legal battle over church bells
by Glen Creno - Mar. 5, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Phoenix has lost a round in the legal squabble over controlling the sound of church bells in the city.
A federal judge this week ordered the city not to enforce its noise ordinance against "sound generated in the course of religious expression." It was a temporary injunction issued by the judge in a lawsuit filed against the city by some churches challenging the city's enforcement of noise restrictions on church bells.
"Church bells are not nuisances," said Erik Stanley, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal alliance. "This is something these churches have been doing for centuries."
The dispute started in 2008 with a church in north Phoenix, Cathedral of Christ the King. It was ringing its bells 13 times a day, and neighbors complained.
Last year, Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Lori Metcalf ordered the church to reduce its bell ringing to once a week. The head of the church, Bishop Rick Painter, got a 10-day suspended jail sentence and three years of probation on two counts of disturbing the peace.
Painter couldn't be reached. But James Lee, a deacon in the church, said there were no plans to start using the bells more often, although the ruling allows it.
Christ the King, St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish of Phoenix and First Christian Church of Phoenix initially combined to sue Phoenix. Stanley said St. Mark joined the case because it was worried that it would get similar sanctions and First Christian because it was considering repairing and activating its bell tower. The judge dropped First Christian from the case in granting the injunction.
Judge Susan Bolton of U.S. District Court in Phoenix said that neighbors' arguments were important, but it said the interests of free speech and religious expression were more important.