Noise abatement notices are being doled out to churches in the U.K and the U.S. lately, as awareness of the dangers of noise pollution spreads. In the U.S., a battle began brewing when legal action was taken against a Phoenix, Arizona church after the pastor defied a legal action demanding he stop ringing his church’s electronic chimes incessantly on weekends and holidays. In fact three Phoenix worship centers were closed down due to their bell clamor, and worshippers are calling foul, claiming their freedom to worship is being infringed upon. Similar battles are being waged in San Francisco and elsewhere.
It’s not always easy to explain why a sound that is joyous to one person can be excruciating to another, but in the church bell dramas unfolding across the U.S. and Britain, it seems high decibel levels are causing courts to side against the bell ringers.
Back in Kendal, generations of locals who grew up listening to those bells every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, are incensed that people moving to the area are changing the town’s traditions.
Kendal Civic Society member Patricia Hovey said she spoke for a majority of locals who grew up in Kendal, stating ‘So, for 120 years we’ve all been subjected to unacceptable noise?
‘I think it’s ridiculous – certain noises are unacceptable but this isn’t one of them, it is part of the town’s charm and history,” Hovey said.
“I don’t see why (the bells) should be turned off; it should be for local people to decide – if you move next to a pig farm, you wouldn’t complain about the smell!”
Page, Clement, and other bell noise whistle blowers say that they’re only asking for a break at night so their guests and they can get a good night’s sleep.
“One or two people have argued that the bells have been around for a long time, but so was slavery,” Page said. “It’s a beautiful sound and we respect tradition, but I don’t understand who benefits at night.”
But the issue has been raised in the past. In the 1980s, a similar struggle to quiet the bells at night was rejected by the town council. But in the 1940’s, residents of a local hotel had the bells muted at night after much complaining.
Christian groups in the U.S. and the UK say they believe the move to silence church bells is driven by secularists to restrict Christian freedom to worship. However, folks who want the bells quieted insist the noise is affecting their sleep and health, and they just want some peace and quiet.