June 1, 2009
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Patti Jo Morum
Madison: The Assemblies of God, Appalachian District, in Ghent, West Virginia has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for cranking out amplified music for hours on end. The group owns an acoustically unsound, cheap metal building, which is rented out to groups that play live, amplified music, such as ski groups from churches and universities. The Assemblies of God also own the Appalachian Resort Inn on the same property. There is no actual church on the grounds.
Patti Jo Morum lives about 350 feet from the building. “We own a brick home with double-pane windows and can hear the noise throughout our home,” she said. “The first time we heard it, we thought someone was parked in our driveway with the radio turned up as loud as it would go. Neighbors who live about 600 yards from the building complain of the noise as well.”
According to Morum, “We have never complained about anything except the stressful bass beats that invade our homes when the property is being used. We hear nothing that resembles music–just a thumping that drives us crazy after a few hours. We have tried, as good neighbors, to resolve this issue, but our efforts have been rebuffed.”
The Assemblies of God management have responded in several ways. First they claimed that they could not afford to soundproof the facility, since they have been informed by sound experts that it would take 8″ concrete walls to completely silence the annoying, stressful low-frequency bass beats. They then claimed that residents should “just tolerate the noise,” as long as they quit by 10:00 pm and didn’t start up again until 7:00 am. Then they argued that they needed the revenues from renting out this metal building in order to pay the mortgage.
Assemblies of God officials then played the religion card, asserting that since the property is owned by the church, they have a right to make as much noise as they want and there is nothing anyone can do about it! Morum states that “guests on that property have told us that they could ‘blast the windows out of our home if they wanted to.'”
Morum and her neighbors had planned to meet with county commissions on May 5, 2009 for a public hearing on a proposed change to the noise ordinance. However, about a week before the hearing, they were informed that the Raleigh County Commission had asked the county sheriff to remove his amendment to the noise ordinance. Area churches had threatened to bring busloads of people to the meeting, so the commisisoners felt they would be better off not dealing with the issue at all. “So much for individual rights,” stated Morum.
Unfortunately, the current Raleigh County, West Virginia noise ordinance contains an exception for religious services and events, including (but not limited to) music, bells, chimes, and organs which are part of such service or event.
Morum notes that “this exemption is unfair, and it is a violation of our personal rights. Freedom of religion does not give people the right to blast away and harm others.”
Kathy Lilly, a resident of Ghent, hears the thump, beat, thump, thump constantly for hours, like the low bass beat from a souped-up sound system in a low rider. She rejects the idea that requiring noise ordinances to apply to church-owned properties is somehow a threat to religious liberties: “I am a Christian and can practice my religion without hurting others. You speak of the good the church has been doing. What kind of Christian witness are the Assemblies being on our neighborhood? Is your Christianity reflected in your treatment of us?”
Morum noted that “The Bible clearly stated that we are to ‘love thy neighbor’ and respect the rights of others. Leviticus 19:18 states, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'”
Church groups which make excessive noise often cite a Biblical verse which states, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” However, there are numerous Bible verses which support the importance of peace and quiet:
-Isiah 32:18: “And my people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”
-1 Thessalonians 2:2: “For kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
-Psalms 107:30: “Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringest them unto their desired haven.”
Patti Jo Morum is hopeful that the Raleigh County commissioners will respect the rights of area residents and require the Assemblies of God complex to quiet down. Until then, she says, “I suppose we will have to prepare ourselves to be terrorized again by the Assemblies of God.”
Noise Free America is a national 501c3 citizens organization opposed to noise pollution. Previous “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Youngstown, Ohio and Lincoln, Nebraska.