Bells that raise strange questions

phoenixconsecrationHere is another one of those strange little -- repeat "little" -- church-state stories that a few readers continue to ask about, via personal emails. At first glance, this is really strange. Then you look closer and it gets stranger -- in part because the stories do not tell us crucial facts that we need to know. Here is a chunk of one of the larger stories out there:

A Phoenix church leader received a suspended sentence of 10 days in jail and three years probation on Wednesday for violating a Phoenix noise ordinance because his church rang its bells hourly.

The bells at the Cathedral of Christ the King on E. Greenway Road normally chime at the top of every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The bells have been registered to emit 67 decibels from the nearest property line.

In addition to Bishop Richard Painter's sentence, the judge issued an order restricting chimes at the church to no more than 60 decibels on Sundays for two minutes and on specific religious holidays.

OK, this raises a logical question about acoustics.

According to a news release from the Alliance Defense Fund, a whisper is 30 decibels and a normal conversation is about 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.

I had other questions, after digging through the church's website and some other coverage (including this YouTube offering):

* Who are these guys? Painter is a bishop in what body? This seems like a rather basic question, to me. I did some searching and I cannot find this congregation in the world of alternative Anglicanism, including the website of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

* Are there any other church bells in Phoenix, perhaps linked to churches that are, well, a bit more mainstream? Have these laws affected them? In other words, are there untidy issues here between the neighbors and the brand of Christian faith being practiced in this unusual building? This doesn't look like your ordinary "cathedral," does it?

* Sure, I'll ask: Are the "bells" actually real bells or are we talking about a recording of some kind played over loudspeakers that can be turned down a notch or two (not that this would affect the legal issue raised here)?

Strange, don't you think? It makes you wonder what this conflict is actually about. Really.

Photo: From the church's own website. Recent consecration services at the church.

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