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home : opinion : opinion December 10, 2017

12/7/2017 1:49:00 AM
Council Considers Noise Ordinance Amendment

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer



Some are calling it an effort to get rid of the street preachers--it is not. The truth is that the only reason this proposed ordinance change is being discussed is that some people believe that their right to speak on behalf of their religious views exceeds the rights of others to enjoy public gatherings without being accosted.

When the Council considered a similar ordinance last year, I was the only person who spoke in favor of it. Let me begin by saying that my opposition has little to do with Alan Hoyle, the outspoken Sheriff candidate whose truck has been the center of controversy at times with its blatant messages and being left parked for extended periods in parking places downtown. I only recently learned that the law says anyone with a disabled placard can exceed time limits and cannot be ticketed. Being severely disabled myself, I still won't abuse that privilege--it's a matter of civility and consideration for others--which is what is lacking on the part of some.



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I have no serious objection to most of Alan's street preaching. I have actually seen him move on when asked to do so by people he approached. I commend him for his commitment to his dogma and doctrine, although I do not agree with some of his religious and most of his political views.

The ones with whom I have a problem is those who use bullhorns to shout in the faces of people who didn't come to hear them preach, but came instead to enjoy Alive After Five or the Apple Festival.

Some years ago, there was a lady who stood at the ABC store when it was located where Walgreen's is now and held a sign opposing alcoholic beverage consumption. She was there most Fridays and Saturdays and I stopped and talked with her on occasion.

I recently saw the man who stands from time to time on the corner at Boger City United Methodist Church holding a sign proclaiming a religious message. I have stopped and talked with him, and when I saw him recently, I smiled and waved and he smiled and returned my greeting.

At this year's Lincolnton Christmas Parade, a man I didn't know began singing "We Ask the Lord's Blessing" in the middle of the street between the Post Office and Cultural Center. He then began preaching and eventually his preaching turned into a political speech. I had no problem with his effort. Those who chose could listen; those who did not could still carry on their own conversations while waiting for the parade.

At the Apple Festival two years ago, one group of street preachers set up on the east side of the court house at Main Street and while one used a bullhorn while standing on a step stool, another walked among the crowd, also with a bullhorn. His yelling in people's faces frightened a child near where I was helping out in the Chamber of Commerce's tent, and I asked him please not to use the bullhorn. He then shouted in my face at point-blank range using his bullhorn, "you're going to Hell!" Sorry, sir, but you are not the one who decides that, and I assure you, based on what it says in the Bible you so claim to believe, I am not.

Eventually the police showed up--and the officer who did told me I was the one creating a disturbance and he'd lock me up if I didn't move on. I rolled my wheelchair across the square with help from a friend and stopped by the Webb's Chapel Baptist Church tent and bought some food. Their tent was covered with religious messages including Bible verses and I thanked their pastor for not only their message but their method.

At this year's Apple Festival, Denver Gospel Hall had a tent near the entrance to the Ag City exhibit. They were giving away tote bags and had printed literature in both English and Spanish which they offered to anyone who wanted it. They didn't BOTHER anyone. I also stopped by the Gideons tent up the street. I contribute to that organization and I praise their work.

I'm sure some of those who oppose this ordinance change will disagree, but I don't believe Jesus was a preacher so much as a teacher. Most of His ministry was to a small group of followers He taught. His sermon on the mount was likely directed more to these than to the multitude who gathered and who never really understood Him as evidenced by how they treated Him later.

Councilman Eaddy hit the nail on the head when he said this isn't a matter of 'content' but of 'conduct.' We need to have consideration for the rights of others. The street preachers have a right to speak--but others have a right not to have to listen if they so choose. Those attending public events have a right to enjoy those events without being lambasted by those intent on expounding on their own religious views. Bullhorns should not be allowed at such gatherings and when asked to 'move on and leave me alone,' those who are speaking should do so.

I am reasonably certain that those who are so adamant in their opposition to this proposal would have an entirely different opinion if the ones using bullhorns were Muslims or Hindus or atheists. Under American law, those groups have just as much right to speak as the street preachers--and in my opinion, just as much responsibility to respect the rights of others not to have to hear their message if that be their choice.

Councilman Eaddy also noted that in this day and time when carrying concealed weapons is not only legal but prevalent, there is the distinct possibility that someone will lose his or her temper--and we could have an incident that will mar Lincolnton's reputation for years to come.

I ask the Council to approve the change. The street preachers can keep on preaching. They--and everyone else--just need to respect the rights of others as much their own first amendment rights. It's time for a good lesson in Civics 101.


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