Street Church decision delayed
Fight continues over amplified preaching ban
GRAEME MORTON CALGARY HERALD
Street Church Ministries preacher Art Pawlowski will have to wait a little longer to find out whether he’ll be able to continue using loud-speakers to reach his inner-city flock. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Bonnie Rawlins reserved her decision Thursday on an injunction filed by the Street Church.
The Street Church is trying to block a bid by the City of Calgary to place a ban on amplified sound as part of Street Church’s 2007 permit to use Triangle Park, a small green space just east of the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
City lawyer David Lewis told Rawl¬ins during Thursday’s hearing that area residents and Drop-In Centre staff and clients have complained about the volume of noise generated during Street Church services.
"They (Street Church) point their speakers outward and pump the sound right at the Drop-In Centre," Lewis said. "This change in their per¬mit doesn’t stop them from preaching to, feeding and clothing people, just not using the speakers." Lewis said city officials offered al-ternate sites to Street Church to con-duct its outdoor services, including Olympic Plaza, but were turned down.
Street Church lawyer Ivan Bernardo told Rawlins the city has ample leg-islative muscle through its bylaws to regulate the level of noise coming out of Triangle Park. "But they have not is-sued one ticket to Mr. Pawlowski. The bylaw officers investigated the com-plaints and didn’t find grounds to is¬sue any fines,’ Bernardo said. On a broader scale, Bernardo said, banning Street Church from using loudspeakers violates its charter rights relating to freedom of expression. "Triangle Park is a perfect location to preach to the homeless. It’s near both the Salvation Army and the Drop-In Centre. You can’t preach to the homeless where there are no homeless people," Bernardo said.
Pawlowski, who has been operating the ministry for four years, joined about 50 supporters to sing 0 Canada on the court steps before the hearing. He said using loudspeakers is cru¬cial in reaching the street people who need God’s guidance to turn their lives around. "If we, as a church, stop helping these people, then what good are we?" Pawlowski said. "We put ex-drug deal- ers and ex-prostitutes on the micro-phone and they tell their stories. Hope enters the hearts of the people listen-ing," Pawlowski said. "The first time they hear the message, they may hate you. The second time, they curse you. But maybe the third time, they’ll say ‘you’re right, I’m sick of this lifestyle, help me change,’ " he said.
Rawlins said she hopes to reach a decision within a few weeks.