Church ordered to cut music after Muslim complaint

From The Telegraph U.K.

Church congregation dwindles after Muslim complains about noise

A church has been ordered to cut the amount of music played in its services after a Muslim neighbour complained that worshippers were too noisy.

By Murray Wardrop
Published: 7:00AM BST 09 Oct 2009

The Immanuel International Christian Centre, in Walthamstow, east London, can now only play music for 20 minutes on Sundays after it was served a noise abatement order.

However, the church claims that the move by Waltham Forest Council has left it lacking in soul and driven away almost three quarters of its congregation.

Pastor Dunni Odetoyinbo, 55, said the congregation has since dropped from 100 to 30.

“It has affected the life of the church completely,” she said. “Most people want to come to church to sing hymns but now they can’t do that. It’s not such a lively place any more.

“We don’t want to be a nuisance to the neighbour. All we want to do is use the church as a place of worship. We need to speak to our solicitor to see what we can do next.”

The notice was served after Muslim neighbour Baha Uddin complained that he was unable to use his garden at weekends due to the noise coming from the church. He also claimed that his one-year-old daughter was disturbed by the amplified music.

He told London’s Evening Standard: “It’s been a nightmare. I’ve not been able to use my garden or living room on a Sunday because of the church services. The amplified music, drums and the loud sermons made having a conversation impossible.

“We had to move my daughter Anisah from her cot into our bed which wasn’t ideal because we want her to be used to sleeping in her cot. The noise made me depressed.”

The council said it took action against the church in May as a “last resort” and served the noise abatement order.

The church lodged an appeal, and appeared at Waltham Forest magistrates’ court on Tuesday to fight their case.

But magistrates rejected their appeal and ordered the church to pay £2,250 costs.

A council spokesman said there had been no breaches reported since the notice was imposed.

“Our officers visited the church by invitation on October 23 2007 when it was explained that the noise they were generating was excessive,” he said.

“Since then, we have worked extremely hard to try and resolve this situation amicably but, sadly, all attempts have failed. We are committed to protecting the quality of life for all our residents and only issue noise abatement notices as a last resort.”

Speaking after the case, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which provided legal advice in the case said:“Worship in a Church is to be expected.

“The Environmental Health Officers do not seem to have taken this fact into account. This is a vibrant Afro Caribbean community of Christian believers whose worship of God is fundamental to the expression of their faith.”

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