ADF attorney available to media after hearings in Phoenix church bell lawsuits

Bishop sentenced to jail for ringing bells; three Phoenix churches sue city over vague noise ordinance restricting age-old practice
Friday, January 29, 2010

WHO:  ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley
WHAT:  Available for media interviews after hearing in State of Arizona v. Painter
WHEN:  Monday, Feb. 1, immediately following hearing, which begins at 11 a.m. MST
WHERE:  Arizona Superior Court, Central Court Building, 201 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix

PHOENIX — Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley will be available for media interviews Monday following oral arguments in an appeal of a Phoenix bishop given a suspended jail sentence for violating a noise ordinance because he rang church bells.

ADF attorneys are defending Bishop Rick Painter of Christ the King Liturgical Charismatic Church in State of Arizona v. Painter, a criminal case on appeal. They are also representing St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish, First Christian Church of Phoenix, and Christ the King Church in a civil suit in federal court that challenges the noise ordinance as unconstitutional. Stanley will argue at a hearing in the federal suit, St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish v. City of Phoenix, earlier the same day, but will be available for media interviews regarding both the criminal and civil suits at the conclusion of the criminal appeal hearing.

“Pastors and churches shouldn’t be treated as criminals for expressing their faith the way churches have done for centuries,” said Stanley. “Being sentenced to jail and probation for ringing church bells is simply ridiculous, especially when the noise level of the chimes is no louder than what the law allows for ice cream trucks.”

Once per hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the bells at Christ the King Church regularly chimed as a way of praising God and have been registered to emit only 67 decibels from the nearest property line. A normal conversation is 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. When Painter was given a suspended sentence of 10 days in jail and three years’ probation in June 2009 by a Phoenix Municipal Court judge, he was also issued an order restricting chimes at his church to no more than 60 decibels for two minutes on Sundays and specific religious holidays. ADF attorneys appealed the rulings on Painter’s behalf.

Just months after Painter was convicted for ringing church bells, city officials notified St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish that the ringing of its bells could be a violation of the same noise ordinance after one neighbor complained about the bells. St. Mark has rung its bells for the last 20 years.

ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance in September 2009 so that Phoenix churches can ring their bells without fear of prosecution and criminal penalties. ADF-allied attorney John Jakubczyk is serving as local counsel in both the criminal and civil suits.

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.