Speed Reads

the sound of silence

Pastor threatened with fines, jail if church music is louder than a conversation

A New Orleans congregation called Vintage Church has been hit with two criminal summons alleging that the church's Sunday services are too noisy. The Jefferson Parish sheriff's office has repeatedly visited the tent where the church operates while their building is under construction, asking that services be quieter than 60 decibels — which is about as loud as a normal conversation or an air conditioning unit — and that Sunday set-up start only 10 minutes before services begin.

Vintage Church has launched a suit against the sheriff's office in response, noting that the sheriffs admit there is no law actually on the books dictating the 60 decibel limit. The congregation of several hundred has already pared down its worship to a few acoustic instruments in an attempt to be quieter, but Pastor Rob Hargrove says the sheriff's office has sent multiple cars to monitor the services' sound, even fingerprinting another pastor during a service while delivering the summons.

"[The sheriffs] have been very visual, unfortunately very unfriendly and intimidating to our staff and our church," Hargrove said. "I think its pretty unreasonable for you to have five, six police cars being called in to this type of a scene. Just by mere amount of cars, that's the intimidation factor."