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Supreme Court of the United States

State of Arizona v. Painter

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • Restrictions against church public worship activities such as the ringing of church bells
  • Government regulations that discriminate against the free exercise of religion

Summary

For many years, the bells at Christ the King Liturgical Charismatic Church in Phoenix had rung every hour, on the hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The ringing was not loud; indeed, on the property of the Church's nearest neighbors, it was about the same volume as a normal conversation. So Bishop Rick Painter was shocked when the City of Phoenix criminally convicted him and  sentenced him to jail for allegedly violating a city noise ordinance. The ordinance contained an exemption for ice cream trucks playing their music over loudspeakers at louder decibel levels than the church bells.  But no such exemption was available for public worship activities like church bells. Shortly after Bishop Painter was criminally convicted, other area churches found themselves under threat of prosecution for ringing their bells as well.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Church to challenge the ordinance and also defended Bishop Painter in state criminal court. The federal court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional when enforced against sounds generated in the course of religious expression. After the federal court's ruling, the state court overturned the conviction of Bishop Painter. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allied attorneys represented Bishop Painter, and other churches in the defense of their constitutional rights.

Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
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