Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Bonnie Rawlins has reserved her decision on an injunction application by the City of Calgary to stop Street Church preacher Art Pawlowski from using amplified sound on public property.
It’s the latest chapter in a prolonged legal battle between Pawlowski and his supporters, who claim they need loudspeakers get their message out, and civic officials, who say they’ve received more than 50 noise complaints from nearby residents.
The Street Church Ministry holds three services a week in Triangle and Simmons parks, two small green areas east of the city centre.
Last May, Rawlins ruled the church couldn’t use amplified sound within the parks.
City lawyer Colleen Sinclair says Street Church staff have simply moved the truck containing their sound equipment to the edges of the parks and onto downtown streets, but excessive noise levels continue on a regular basis. Complaints have come from the East Village, the downtown core and across the river in Bridgeland.
"We have statements from many area residents and even staff at the Mustard Seed who’ve approached the Street Church people to ask them to turn down their sound, but they refuse," said Sinclair during a two-hour hearing Thursday.
"They’ve been given multiple tickets by bylaw officers, but it has had no effect on them. These plaintiffs must be treated like any other citizen when it comes to the application of the bylaws of this city."
Sinclair said any injunction would be in effect until a trial set for this fall that will deal with charter issues pertaining to the church’s right to freedom of speech coming in conflict with a number of civic bylaws.
Street Church lawyer Ivan Bernardo said any ban on the use of amplified sound would far exceed the city’s objective of noise control.
"There must be a balance between the church’s right to speak and the ability of others to enjoy peace and quiet," said Bernardo. "The church needs some level of amplified sound or they can’t preach. They are right beside the 4th Avenue flyover."
Pawlowski and about 25 supporters held a brief rally on the courthouse steps before the hearing.
"I will never quit feeding people. I will never quit giving them hope. This is not an option," Pawlowski said.
Rawlins said she hopes to have a decision on the injunction by early May.
"It’s an unfortunate case. Mr. Pawlowski serves a portion of the population that sorely needs care, but his methods are so fraught with controversy," said Rawlins.