Local Authority Refuses to Withdraw Illegal and Unreasonable Noise Order Against Church
“The real issue behind this complaint is hostility to the Christian message, and the law is being used as a pretext to harass and silence Christian viewpoints not approved by the State. All Nations’ Church is simply trying to make Christianity relevant to 21st century Britain and it will be a great loss if the church, which is a great benefit to the community, has to curtail its activities and outreach programs because of the Council’s actions.”
By Michael Ireland
11/11/2009 England (ANS)-The craziness continues between a local church in the UK in its ongoing struggle against the borough council over the volume of its worship services.
In an extraordinary decision, All Nations’ Church in Kennington, South London, was served with a noise abatement notice by Lambeth council in September after complaints from a couple of local residents about the level of noise coming from the church.
Now, All Nations Centre is calling on Lambeth Council to withdraw the unlawful noise abatement notice served on the church because it was wrongfully issued.
The church says that the Council had no lawful basis for issuing the notice and did not even follow its own published guidelines prior to serving the notice. The church is being supported in its case by the Christian Legal Centre.
Church leaders believe that the Council’s action has been driven and orchestrated by a small minority of people who have an agenda against the church, and the issue has nothing to do with noise. The church is also concerned that a local council member was involved in this process.
According to ANC pastoral staff, in an e-mail update to ASSIST News, the council noise officers admitted in a recent meeting that no noise measuring equipment was used to measure the alleged noise witnessed.
The officers also failed to explain why they did not try to discuss any noise complaints with the church and give them an opportunity to remedy any problems, a failure that is a flagrant breach of the council’s own guidelines issued to its officers on how to deal with complaints of noise nuisance. Further, neither the council nor the complainants have been able to explain why all of a sudden noise has become an issue.
Since receiving the Abatement Notice, ANC has commissioned independent noise engineers to carry out a noise study. The experts concluded that the noise complaints by neighbors are unjustified.
In the meantime, several measures have been taken by the church to try to resolve matters amicably. For example, all doors and windows are kept firmly shut during church singing, and stewards are situated outside the church during services and patrol key areas to ensure that there are no problems with noise.
According to Pastor Abraham Sackey: “The Church leaders are angry about the abatement notice, which they feel is unreasonable and unjustifiable, especially in light of the fact that they have worshipped in the same location for over 45 years.
“Indeed, the local church has been part of the fabric of life in Lambeth since 1926, moving into the community in 1946 and in its particular location since 1964.”
Sackey goes on to say the impact of the noise abatement notice “cannot be understated.”
He said: “It would mean closure of worship services and therefore the Church and of course the various transformational projects offered to the community by the church. These would seem more than unreasonable, as the Church has unrestricted planning consent to hold worship services and have done so for many decades.”
Sackey stated: “The church is willing to discuss residents’ concerns and reach an amicable agreement if at all possible. However at this stage, the (church) leaders are very concerned with the way the Council has handled this matter so far and are expecting Lambeth Council to acknowledge its mistake and withdraw the unlawful notice.”
Kate Hoey, the local MP (Member of Parliament) said: “All Nations has been operating in the same place for over 45 years and Lambeth Council officers have exceeded their powers in the arbitrary way they have been served a notice. This is a waste of Council money. The church officials were happy to discuss any problems, but have been ignored.”
“This is the first complaint that the church has received since it began meeting at the premises in the 1960s. Church leaders have been ordered not to amplify its music or sermons — something which will make worship very difficult for the 600-strong congregation — some of whom are elderly and hard of hearing,” said Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre in London , which has been representing the church in its battle with the borough council.
“The decision, which imposes a restriction on the freedom of expression of religion will, according to one of the church’s pastors, Victor Jibuike, seriously affect the congregation and potentially mean that some members will leave and worship elsewhere — something he does not want to see.”
Williams went on to say that the Council Noise Abatement Notice was served on the church without warning on September 25, 2009, despite the fact a meeting with the local Council member and residents had being arranged for October 20 with the intention of addressing the neighbors’ concerns.
“The Pastors of the Church wanted to do everything possible to solve the matter amicably,” she added.
Pastor Jubiuke believes the complaints, which have led to the notice, may also have been triggered by the church’s plans to develop a disused school into a community centre in partnership with the Council.
He said: “The complaint has nothing to do with the noise and everything to do with our faith. Lambeth Council are driving us out and we feel harassed.”
The Church is being supported in its ordeal by the Christian Legal Centre (www.christianlegalcentre.com ).
Andrea Williams stated, “The real issue behind this complaint is hostility to the Christian message, and the law is being used as a pretext to harass and silence Christian viewpoints not approved by the State. All Nations’ Church is simply trying to make Christianity relevant to 21st century Britain and it will be a great loss if the church, which is a great benefit to the community, has to curtail its activities and outreach programs because of the Council’s actions.”
This church is part of The Apostolic Church, a Pentecostal and evangelical denomination founded in 1916 as a result of the 1904 Welsh Revival. There are now 135 apostolic churches in the UK and many affiliated churches.
A member of the Evangelical Alliance, The Apostolic Church works in more than 40 countries around the world. Its national office is in Swansea , South Wales .