You would think that city residents would welcome church bells as a means of drowning out the police sirens and gunshots often heard in Phoenix neighborhoods. Apparently not.
In June, a Catholic bishop was sentenced to three years of probation and 10 days in jail (suspended) for violating a noise ordinance by ringing church bells in a Phoenix neighborhood.
On August 24, city officials warned St. Mark's Catholic Church, located near Van Buren Street and 30th Street, that it could be prosecuted "if St. Mark did not reduce the amount of times that it rings its carillon to the satisfaction of certain neighbors," according to a complaint filed by prosecutors.
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What a kick in the bells.
Well, three of Phoenix's Catholic churches have had enough of the bell bullying, and have filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix, saying that prohibiting them from ringing their bells is unconstitutional.
"The bells represent a means of religious worship for the churches," Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, tells Courthouse News Service. "They show the community the church is there, and for the Catholic churches, they are also a reminder to pray."
The churches are asking for nominal damages, declaratory judgment under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and a permanent injunction so they can ring their bells.