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Phoenix bishop sentenced to jail for ringing church bells

Church leader convicted under noise ordinance for hourly chimes praising God; ADF attorneys will pursue legal options

PHOENIX — A Phoenix bishop received a suspended sentence of 10 days in jail and three years probation Wednesday for violating a Phoenix noise ordinance because his church rang its bells hourly as a way of praising God.  The ordinance does not include an exemption for religious worship, though it does provide an exemption for ice cream trucks.  Bishop Rick Painter of Cathedral of Christ the King has retained attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund to pursue legal options to defend his rights.

“Christians shouldn’t be punished for exercising their faith publicly,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.  “It’s ridiculous to be sentenced to jail and probation for doing what churches have traditionally done throughout history, especially when the sound of the church’s bells did not exceed the noise level that the law allows for ice cream trucks.  We are reviewing the legal options available to us to defend Bishop Painter’s rights.”

The bells at the Cathedral of Christ the King normally chime at the top of every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  The bells have been registered to emit only 67 decibels from the nearest property line.  A whisper is 30 decibels, and a normal conversation is about 60 to 70 decibels.  Ice cream trucks are allowed to emit up to 70 decibels at a distance of 50 feet under an exemption to the city’s ordinance, but no exemption exists for church bells.  In addition to Painter’s sentence, the judge issued an order restricting chimes at the church to no more than 60 decibels for two minutes on Sundays and specific religious holidays.

“The church bells chime a short, ancient melody of praise to God,” said Stanley.  “It’s too bad that the value of the bells is lost on many in our society.  In a busy neighborhood full of sirens, heavy traffic, and loud motorcycles, these chimes are a sound of peace that do not exceed the noise level of an average conversation.  Certainly, that should be at least as acceptable as the sound of an ice cream truck.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.