America the Messy Yard Police State

Phoenix noise law unconstitutional?

Lawyers argue that Phoenix noise ordinance is unconstitutional!

I guess you could say the messy yard laws are unconstitutional for the same reasons!


Court hears arguments over church bell in Phoenix

by John Faherty - Feb. 2, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

The arguing over the silencing of church bells grew louder in two Phoenix courtrooms on Monday.

The legal conflict centers on a church in north Phoenix. In 2008, it started to ring its bells 13 times a day, seven days a week, to the annoyance of its neighbors.

In May 2009 Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Lori Metcalf told the church, Cathedral of Christ the King, to pipe down.

The bells could ring, she said, but only once a week on Sunday morning.

She also found the church's leader, Bishop Rick Painter, guilty on two counts of disturbing the peace. He received a 10-day suspended sentence and three years' probation.

On Monday morning, a national Christian legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, argued in U.S. District Court that the Phoenix noise ordinance is overly vague and unconstitutional.

Section 23-12 of the Phoenix City Code addresses the issue of "nuisance and noise."

It says: "Subject to the provisions of this article the creating of any unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise with the limits of the City is hereby prohibited."

The way the code is written, ADF attorney Erik Stanley argued, makes it impossible for a person to know if a noise he is making is against the law.

Finally, he said, it violates the freedom of expression and religion. Several other Valley churches have joined the case against the ordinance.

The defense group also appealed Painter's conviction in Maricopa County Superior Court.

"These cases are important because no pastor should be convicted for peacefully exercising his religion," Stanley said. "That's what this whole thing boils down to."

On Monday, it argued that because the law is unconstitutional, the bishop's criminal conviction should be thrown out.

City attorneys disagreed, saying the law is fine as written and that the conviction should stand.

Monday's court arguments were complex, with nuanced discussions about the best way to decide what constitutes a "reasonable" amount of noise and long discussions about whether a church bell ringing is protected by constitutional protections of freedom of speech and religion.

In federal court , Judge Susan R. Bolton tried to separate the message of the bells from their volume.

In Superior Court, Judge Crane McClennen at one point interrupted ADF attorney Erik Stanely to ask if the tolling of Big Ben in London is religious.

"Did God divide the day into 24 hours?" McClennen asked.

Both judges said they would take the cases under advisement.


America the Messy Yard Police State