NJ: Call to Prayer or Public 'Nuisance'?


NJ: PRAYER OR PUBLIC 'NUISANCE'?

A resident who sued a local mosque after it tested a loudspeaker system for its Arabic call to prayer said his lawsuit was made moot when the City Council allowed such broadcasts under its noise ordinance. But he may go back to court if he hears the amplified chants again.

"They have not disturbed my peace yet," said Joseph Dorman, a retired UPS worker who lives a block away from the Albanian-American Islamic Center on Monroe Street.

Dorman's suit, filed on March 30 in state Superior Court in Hackensack, argued that the mosque's intent to use loudspeakers to call its congregants to prayer on Muslim high holy days would violate a city ordinance that prohibited amplification audible beyond a property line. It also said that city government's lack of enforcement of the noise ordinance gave the mosque an implicit exemption, which was unconstitutional.

But on May 8, the City Council amended its ordinance, exempting houses of worship from the loudspeaker prohibition. City Manager Thomas J. Duch said that he found many of the "bells" heard from the churches' belfries were prerecorded.

"Most of the churches use loudspeakers," Duch said Tuesday.

Dorman's attorney was Christopher A. Ferrara, president and lead counsel of the American Catholic Lawyers Association Inc., of Fairfield. The religious nonprofit organization provides free legal services to Catholics "needing legal defense in matters of faith and conscience," according to its Web site.

On Tuesday, Ferrara said the amended ordinance rendered the lawsuit "largely moot" with one remaining open issue. "If the noise comes up and we have a Catholic plaintiff, it could be a public nuisance case," he said. "We'd be willing to take a look at it."

 


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